DAYTON, Texas -- Last week, I found myself poking at hay bales, seeing if my finger could press in a little ways in the middle of a round bale ― but hardly any on the outer portions since it was wrapped so tight.     

I became more and more aware of the “science of hay-making.”

For example, bale weights can tell you where the best hay in the field is located.

“With our large square balers, we have the ability to actually record bale weights, and those bale weights can be applied through crop ID tags on the bale,” says Michael Cornman, dairy and livestock segment marketing manager for New Holland. “That information is actually recording real-time as the bale is being ejected from the baler,” he adds. The operator can then compare yield weights from the different fields on his farm.

I also saw a mower-conditioner with a wider conditioning roll system than on previous models. The resulting crop mat is thinner, which allows for faster and more uniform dry-down. And faster dry-down helps preserve hay quality.  

The quality of the hay will never be any higher than when it is first cut, Cornman says.

All of this helps the bottom line because the higher the forage quality, the less reliant producers are on protein additives, he adds.

It was an eye-opening ― and, when standing in front of bales, finger-poking ― experience.