Drying in bad weather can become expensive, but it doesn’t have to!
This year has proved difficult yet again for harvesting hay at the right time. The northern slopes of the Alps in particular have seen huge volumes of rain. Only two short windows of good weather, from the 10th to - 12th and from the 16th to 18th of May have made it possible to mow and harvest. There was also still rainfall during the second window on Sunday the 17th.
It is not possible to dry hay in large amounts under these weather conditions without an effective drying system. The ground is not able to dry due to the damp weather, high yields per hectare result and a large volume of feed per hectare needs to be brought in under damper conditions than usual.
Drying hay with cold air is almost impossible with night temperatures around 5 °C, rain and humidity levels of almost 100%. Remedying this with additional heating from an oven is also an expensive affair. Imagine that the fresh air intake has a temperature of 5 °C and 100% humidity and that the desired drying temperature is 30°C. This means that approximately 50,000 m³ of air would need to be heated by 25°C in a 125 m² ventilated hay box. This requires a heat output of almost 300 kW which in turn consumes more than 25 l of heating oil per hour. Around 2,000 l of heating oil would be required if drying took place over 80 hours. With two drying periods, this would amount to 4,000 l of heating oil.
This would roughly be the amount needed to produce hay of satisfactory quality. The conversion of litres of heating oil to m³ of wood chips or split logs would represent a small tract of forest. At a heating oil price of around € 0.76, the required 4,000 l of heating oil for an oven costs more than € 3,000. The oven also needs an additional 2-4 kW of electricity in order to power the burner and transport fan or a screw motor if using a woodchip oven. This amounts to approximately € 100 in additional electricity costs.
The same value of produce can easily be achieved with a 16kW dehumidifier which can be run with indoor air. This dehumidifier requires 2,560 kWh for the same two drying periods. At an electricity price of € 0.20 per unit, the costs would amount to just over € 500.
The electricity costs for the fan are of course the same for both drying systems, which amounts to approximately € 500 for a 15 kW fan.
We have already equipped many farms with several drying chambers that have allowed them to produce top-quality dry hay using our drying systems.
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