It is always night time when I go to the field with the JD8400 and Hesston mid-size baler. When I am baling alfalfa hay, I let the windrows sundry until they are 10-11% moisture. Then, at about 10:00 pm in the Missouri River valley in Montana, the dew sets in on the windrows. We begin baling shortly after the moisture is on the windrow. The dew keeps the hay leaves attached to the stem. The moisture keeps the alfalfa leaves on the stem.
Why is this so important? When the hay is fed in the wintertime, the leaves are still attached to the stems as they were when the alfalfa was windrowed. You minimize the amount of leaf loss (the protein) during the baling process when it is baled with moisture on the hay. The ultimate gain is the hay has a higher RFV (relative food value) thus providing higher protein level to the livestock. The quality product is well worth the loss of a little sleep. Farmers across the Missouri River valley have created different tools to help monitor the moisture levels. One neighbor created a moisture detector that is attached to an alarm clock. This allows them to sleep until the alarm goes off versus getting out of bed every few hours to feel the moisture levels. So the next time you are passing by an alfalfa field at night and see the tractor lights circling the field, you will now know why.