This is a simple idea and relatively cheap for a farmer who likes hay milk : a hay dryer with a greenhouse making it possible to make hay without thinking about rain. With that method, we can make hay in Belgium begin May when the wheater is still very changing. We then become hay as rich as silage but without the drawbacks
A dream of ecologist people ? However greenhouses which dry sludge exist :
We will see later that a greenhouse can dry the same grassland surface as a big barn dryer.
Hay has more qualities than silage : it is lighter and more funny to handle than silage and there is no risk of listeriose nor butyric germs in the cheese. A rat which makes a gap in the sheet which covers the silo is enough to have musty silage with listerias which are deadly for people and animals. And what can the farmer make with all that musty forage ? Farmers make silage because the silage can be made between two days when the grass is not totally dry. Silage needs plastic sheets which must be disposed. That comes at a cost for the farmer and the environment. This problem doesn't exist with hay.To avoid the heating of the forage, the silo face must progress enough fast. Il is a constant concern for the farmer. If he gives hay, he doesn't need to worry.
Every breeder who gives recently hay to their cows sees the difference and says that they have a better health and better hooves.
Drying hay on the ground needs a long period without rain and that doesn't arrive when the grass is the most rich. Hay can be dryed in a barn but it needs then fossil energies or the biomethanization. What I will explain is better than a dryer with biomethanization of manure because it is not made at the expense of the soil humus. With the biomethanization, the soil becomes poorer. Presently there are dryers with a dehumidifier using a heat pump : the humidity of the air is condensed on the cold wall of the heat pump and is eliminated. This dry air will then heat on the warm wall of the heat pump, and becomes so still dryer. That heat pump needs energie, much more thant my dryer which has only fans. In France, farmers are drying with air which is heated under the roof of the barn warmed up with the sun. But it is not enough in Belgium and the roof is very expensive..
How much times have we know the situation where, after three sunny days it is raining during the 4th day on the grassland where hay was drying, a few rain but enough to compromise the harvest. What we seek is to make hay without rain. In Belgium, 2 days sunny weather are frequent. More than 2 days is doubtful. It is better to have the hay inside into 2 days.
After tedding on the ground, the hay is harvested with 40 % humidity, like silage. Then it is harvested in a greenhouse where the hay is safe from rain. If after that, the weather is variable, the greenhouse warms up enough during the sunny periods. Of course, it is not possible to ted when there is a long rain period. And if the rain arrives after 2 days drying in the greenhouse, when the hay is not completely dry, it will not rain continuously more than one day and then there are sunny periods again. We only have to prolong the drying process one of two days and the sunny periods are then enough to dry totally the hay. The sun is free and it kost no cent more.
A 8,50 m wide greenhous is receives the sun beams on about 8 meters height. The documentation about the photovoltaic panels says that in Belgium, each square meter receives 1.000 kWh/year from the sun. In the winter, we have not much sun and in the summer we have much sun. Let us take 200 sunny days in one year. During on day of the good season, each square meter receive in average 5 kWh. It can rise until 7 kWh in summer.
Thermal solar panels made with pipes containing heat transfer fluid has an efficiency of 40 %. Let us take the same for the greenhouse. Then, 5 kWh * 0,40 % = 2 kWh effectively enter in the greenhouse.
The surface exposed to the sun of a greenhouse with 30 meters long is 30 * 8 = 240 m².
In one day, the greenhouse capture 240 m² * 2 kWh/m² = 480 kWh.
Let us make a funny comparison. We know that the heat value of one petrol litre is 9 kWh. Il a car consumes 5 petrol litres for 100 km (the 3/4 are lost in the exhaust gas), our greenhouse is equivalent to 480 kWh / 5 petrol litre/100 km / 9 kWh/petrol litre = 10 cars riding 100 km a day.
In one day, our greenhouse capture enough energy to permit a car to ride 1.000 km. It is very strong. If the hay cannot dry in a greenhouse, I will not understand.
In a closed greenhouse full in the sun, the temperature reaches more than 50 °C. Hay must stay under 40 °C in order to not destroy its nutritive qualities. So it is necessary to have one propeller fan and also to evacuate the wet coming from the grass in the greenhouse.
The benefit of a greenhouse is that we can make hay begin May when the grass is very young and contains much protein.So we can avoid purchasing soya as this farmer who says he doesn't no longer know the price of soya, which is good to prevent the deforestation of the Amazon :
Plastic greenhouses tunnels
The greenhouse tunnel SRK 8,50 m from Filclair-Belgium is 4,75 m high and the free height under the inside crossbars is 3,50 m. If the engines are not too big, there is no difficulty to go inside. With that greenhouse, the hay stay on the grassland one and an half day and is then harvested with 40 % humidity. The farmer harvests and places the hay in the greenhouse with a loader wagon. He must spread the hay in the greenhouse. It can be done with a manure fork as you can see in the video :
The loader wagon may not be too high. In the two following links, you can see a loader wagon made for low stables. The 22 T from Pöttinger is 2,72 m high while the free passage in the greenhouse is 3,50 m.
This loader wagon can be used with a 50 HP tractor which can enter in a greenhouse.such as the Solis 50, the Deutz Fahr 4080E or the Massey Ferguson 4708 with a usual height is 2,55 m, You can see here documentation about it..
Tracteur Deutz Fahr 4080 E
Tracteur Massey Ferguson 4708
In the greenhouse, the hay must be turned. We can use a little pirouette-tedder or this very little tedder :
As the little tedder is 1,4 meter wide, if we run at 2 km/hour, a greenhouse of 7 m * 30 m is turned after (7 / 1,4 * 30 / 1.000 / 2 * 60 = 4,5 minutes. If we turn the hay in the greenhouse 3 or 4 times a day, the work in one greenhouse is less than 20 minutes long a day and we can make yearly 20 ha hay with only 2 greenhouses.
When the hay is dry, we can make little bales with this little baler :
The width of that little baler is 1,80 meter and it is used with a 20 to 25 HP tractor. It makes 3 to 9 bales in on minute along the weight of the bales (30 kg or 10 kg), or 540 bales of 10 kg in one hour. As we can put 3.000 kg dry hay in a greenhouse of 30 m * 8,5 m and a lay of 40 cm, we need 3.000 kg / 10 kg = 300 bales and 60 minutes * 300 / 540 = 33 minutes. To finish the work in 2 serres (which permit a 20 hectares a year harvest), we need one hour..
Other mini-balers exist. They make round bales of 15 kg, but their productivity is low, as they make 50 to 80 bales per hour. To make 200 bales in two greenhouses, they need 2 * 200 bales / 70 bales/hour = 6 hours to work. It is too much. You can see those mini round balers here :
Those mini round balers cost 7.000 € HTVA. Their useful width is 80 cm. They work with a 20 CV tractor.
The budget to be provided is then (price without VAT) :
Loader wagon Pöttinger Boss Junior 22T : 24.000 €
Tractor Solis 50 2WD : 12.000 € or tractor Massey Ferguson 4708 : 49.000 €
Tedder Molon 1M40 : 1.314 €
Square baler Abbriata M.60 Mini : 11.529 €
2 greenhouses Filclair SRK8,50m 2 * 8,5 m * 30 m * 4,75 m : 23.000 €
Total : between 71.000 € and 108.000 € everything new
With those two greenhouses we can yearly dry 20 hectares if we first dry on the grassland during 1,5 days in order to have 40 % humidity. In a farm with 100 ha, we must have 5 greenhouses which can yearly dry 50 ha with a budget between 100.000 € and 140.000 € .
Farmers can wonder whether ultraviolet rays from the sun will not detroy the vitamins in the hay in the greenhouse. Let us compare one hectare hay on the grassland and what its becomes in the greenhouse. On the grassland, 100 ares are subjected to direct sunlight. In the greenhouse, it is 2 ares because only the upper lay is reached with the sun rays. The amount ultraviolet rays received by the hay in the greenhouse are significantly lesser than in the grassland .
With one greenhouse of 30 m * 8,5 * 4,75 m, we can dry one hectare at a time.One hectare at a time seems to be too little but with a greenhouse we have to work in another way : instead of one large harvest, we have to make numerous little harvests. Farmers who are drying in a barn with a dehumidifier and cells where the hay reachs 7 meters height are also obliged to make numerous little harvests because they are limited by the surface of the cells where they can put only 1 meter hay. If those farmers make 30 hectares in one year, they will not make more than 1 meter / 7 meter * 30 hectares, or 4 or 5 hectares each time. If we have 3 or 4 greenhouses of 30 m * 8,5 m, we can do even good but it costs much less.
It is necessary to ventilate the greenhouse in order to evacuate the wet air. We see here the greenhouse.
We can use therefore the Sovelor vmo600 propeller. It must be placed 2 meters inside behind the door. The sliding door is closed in such a way that it lets an opening C 1,50 m wide. The A area must be closed otherwise, when the propeller blows through C, the propeller will pump external air coming inside by A which means the the propeller cannot good work yet. The part A must be closed with a sheet which can be moved because the tractor must be able to go inside. So, there is only the area C open and its dimensions are 1,50 m * 1,50 m. The Sovelor propeller will blow only the inside air through C.
In the retail, we can find fans with very wide range of performances. So, the Sovelor vmo600 propeller consumes 180 W while other propellers with the same flow consume more than 900 W.
The farmer has to follow the weather broadcast to see if there will be two sunny days.
If the hay contained 40 % d'humidity when it was put in the greenhouse, 1 kg hay must evacuate 0,4 kg water. The psychrometric diagram indicates that, when the temperature increases from 18 °C (coming in air) to 34 °C, 1 kg dry air can absorb 17 kcal and 24 gr water.
If the hay is put in the greenhouse with 40 % d'humidity, 1,66 kg of that grass contains 0,66 kg water, whereas 1,18 kg dry hay with 16 % humidity contains 0,18 kg water. 1 kg dry hay contains 0,18 / 1,18 = 0,15 kg water. To obtain 1,18 kg hay we must extract 0,66 - 0,18 = 0,48 kg water. For 1 kg hay we must extract 0,48 / 1, 18 = 0, 40 kg water.
If the greenhouse has as dimensions 30 m * 8 * 4,75 (the length of the greenhouse may not be greater the 30 m to have a good ventilation), it has a volume of 1.000 m³and as the weight of 1 m³ air is 1,2 kg at 20 °C, the total weight of the air in the greenhouse is 1.200 kg.
For one m², it receives 5 kWh a day, but all that energie does not come in the greenhouse. Thermal solar panels have an efficiency of 40 %. We will suppose it is the same for the greenhouse.
In one summer day with sun, we have
5 kWh/m² * 40% * 8 m exposed at the sun * 30 m = 480 kWh
The greenhouse receives in one hour 480 kWh * 861 kcal/kWh /8 hours = 51.660 kcal/hour
But we know that 17 kcal and 24 gr water are absorbed by1 kg dry air
Thus, 1 kcal is absorbed by 1 / 17 kg dry air
51660 kcal/hour need 1 / 17 * 51660 kg dry air sec to be absorbed or 3038 kg dry air
1 kg dry air absorbs 24 gr water
3038 kg dry air absorb 3038 * 24 / 1.000 = 73 kg water
As the weight of the air in the greenhouse is 1.200 kg, the air in the greenhouse will be removed 3038 / 1200 = 2,5 times per hour while the air absorbs 73 kg water.
The Sovelor propeller has 2 speeds and the maximum flow is 11.000 m³/hour. The volume of the greenhouse is 30 m long * 8,5 m large * +/- 3,75 m high = 1.000 m³. With the flow of 11.000 m³/hour, the air in the greenhouse is replaced 11 times a hour instead of 2,5 calculated times necessary to absorb the humidity of the grass. The temperature is then lower and the air absorbs less kg water / m³ air, but as we have more m³ air, it is the same. Or, if the flow is smaller, 1 m³ air absorbs more water because it is warmer in the greenhouse, but with a smaller flow. Finally, it is the same and, to be careful, the best is to blow always hard to be sure that the temperature is not excessive, which can destroy the nutrients in the hay, and not exceed 39 °C in the greenhouse.
When we watch the street between two rain showers, we see the the floor quickly becomes dry while the sky stay covered or during the night. I think that even without sun, it is possible to dry with a greenhouse. With a covered sky, it is better to continue to blow and turn the hay 4 times a day. Andin the night, it is best to let work the propellers.
The Sovelor propeller needs only 180 W. It is tremendously few compared with the fans used in barn dryers where the air has to go through a lay of 7 meters hay. In those dryers, the power necessary for the fans is somewhat as 18 kW. Our 2 propellers (we have 2 greenhouses to make the same quantity hay), or 360 W instead of 18.000 W. Do you see the amount € you will gain.
In one day we can extract : 73 kg * 8 = 584 kg water or, 584 kg water / 0,4 kg water/kg hay with 40 % humidity = 1460 kg hay / day.
3.000 kg hay / ha is a middle cut. If we make 4 cuts a year for barn drying, the grassland gives more : making now barn dryiing, a farmer ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=y-QH_uLBPJc ) increased his harvest from 7 ton to 11 ton dry material, or 13 ton hay on one hectare. Thus, each of those 4 cuts produces effectively 3.000 kg hay.
If we put 3.000 kg hay in the greenhouse, it is 3000 kg / (8 m * 30 m) / 30 kg/m³ = 0,4 m high. We can dry those 3.000 kg between 3000 kg / 1460 kg/day = 2 days.
If we dry 2 times in the week, the greenhouse is used 5 days in the week. Let us take no more because some days will be with rain. Thus, we dry 2 * 1 ha or 2 hectare a week. Between May and September, there are 20 weeks. We can harvest with a greenhouse 2 ha/week * 20 weeks = 40 ha. If we have 2 greenhouses, we can harvest 80 ha. But we make 4 cuts a year on the same surfaces. Thus, 2 greenhouses can annually dry 80 / 4 = 20 hectares
With other words : 20 hectares produce 10.000 kg hay/hectare/year which need to dry 20 ha * 10000 kg hay/ha / 2 greenhouses / 1460 kg hay/day drying/greenhouse = 66 days drying / year and the good season is 140 days long.
We often hear that hay drying in a greenhouse is only made for very small farms. That is not correct : I found on the internet a farm of 45 ha grassland with an industrial dryer with a surface of 8 meters * 40, or 320 m² for a harvest of about 20 hectares, et normally, the drying process allows only to lay down 1 meter hay at a time In a greenhouse of 8 meters * 30 we lay down a bed of 40 cm hay. Thus, 2 greenhouses dry the same volume as that industrial dryer of 8 * 40 m or 320 m². Because 8*40*1 = x *8*30*0.4. We conclude x = 3. Thus, we need 3 greenhouses if the number of harvests is the same, but as the greenhouse needs more frequently harvests, we effectiveloy can dry 20 hectares a year, between May and September .
We supposed the hay was first dryed 2 days on the grassland. We can also place the grass directly in the greenhouse. We have then much less waste of broken leaves than with a tedder. But we cannot then make more than one harvest a week and 2 greenhouses can only dry 5 hectares yearly instead of 20 ha when we use a tedder on the grassland. This swiss farmer uses that method :
I made hay the 10 May 2019 without tedding and the hay was dry after 4 days. It was possible because I put less grass in my little greenhouse. My greenhouse has as dimensions 3 m * 4 m or 10 m² which can be used. The harvested surface was 3 ares. The dimensions of a greenhouse tunnel are 30 m * 8 m. That greenhouse tunnel is 240 m² / 10 m² = 24 times larger than my little greenhouse.
If we put the same proportion in the large greenhouse tunnel as in my little greenhouse, the harvested surface should be 24 * 3 ares = 72 ares, while with tedding we can put 1 hectare. The height of the grass in the greenhouse tunnel is 3.000 kg dry hay on 1 hectare * 0,72 hectare / 30 kg/m³ density of hay = 72 m³ and 72 m³ / 30 m long / 8 m wide = a height of 30 cm when the hay is dry. That is good for the drying process and will prevent fermentations.
Without tedding we dry 72 ares during 4 days instead when tedding 1 hectare is dry after 2 days. Finally, the drying process is 100 ares / 72 ares * 4 jours / 2 jours = 2,77 longer. With tedding, we can make 10 hectares in one year. Without tedding the annual harvest is 2,77 times smaller than with tedding or only 4 hectares per year. It is not enough but it can save hay making that, without a greenhouse, should be lost..
I think we should forget the idea to dry without tedding on the grassland during 1,5 day.
I found interesting videos from the Fugea (Belgium) on Youtube about forage autonomy rotational grazing, such as https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=78Y3Pdm9otA
We learn that we must keep 1 cow/ are / day to have an optimal rotational grazing.
Our 2 greenhouses of 30 m * 8 m should allow to make 20 ha hay a year. That corresponds more or less to a farm with 40 cows.
40 cows in rotational grazing need 40 cows * 1 are/cow/day * 7 days/week = 2,80 hectare grazed in 1 week.
Normally, with our 2 greenhouses, we can dry 2 times/week of 2 ha/each time = 4 hectares/week, with 4 days a week in the greenhouse.
So we see that the harvest is even fast or better than with rotational grazing. That means that the grass in the greenhouse is the same quality that what the cows eat in a good managed grassland.
Indeed, we could wonder if the grass in the greenhouse is always young, of good quality, because we only can harvest 2 hectares in one time, which prolong the hay making period. If we start end April with 4 hectares a week, we need 5 weeks to complete a first round on the 20 hectares. So, we end the first cycle at the end of May, when the grass is flowering.
But as we do it better than a well developed rotational grazing, we can feel confident.
In this French video, they insist on the first grazing https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nEnpl6qO53E which permit not to be exceeded by the grass grow at the end of May.
The greenhouse has a volume of 1.000 m³ and the propeller needs 180 W. For on cut of 3000 kg hay, the propeller fan needs 0,180 kW * 24 hours * 2 days * 0.25 €/kWh electricity = 2,16 €. If we have to make 20 hectares in one year producing 10000 kg hay / hectare, the yearly cost to dry the hay is 2;16 € * 20 * 10000 / 3000 = 144 €, or 2,16 / 3000 = 0,00072 €/kg hay. In energie expressed : 3.000 kg hay need 0,18 kW * 24 hours * 2 days = 8,64 kWh. Thus, 20 ha giving 10.000 kg hay/year need 576 kWh. This is right if we permanently blow during 24 hours a day.
Glass greenhouses 5 meter high.
A 5 m high glass greenhouse costs much more thant 2 big greenhouse tunnels but stay cheaper than a barn dryer. A big glass greenhouse of 30 m * 16 m * 5 m high greenhouse costs 115.000 € (133.000 € when polycarbonate) and a little barn dryer costs 250.000 €. Further, the electricity used in a greenhouse tunnel costs yearly 144 € when the ventilators blow night and day while a barn dryer with the same capacity needs 6.000 € electricity a year for its ventilator and 6.000 € again if there is a dehumidifier.
A large building which can be used as hay dryer but much cheaper is a sealed hangar covered with jet black sheets (RAL 9005) with some translucent sheets in the roof and in the cladding in the southern wall. Its dimensions are 30 m long * 16 m wide * 5 m high. One sheet is not set in the wall in the gable at the opposite side of the door. The propeller fan is placed in front of that hole and the door is 1 meter wide open. This hangar costs 60.000 € exclusive VAT. With this hangar, the farmers will mostly not have to buy machines. The machines they generally use for making hay on the grassland can be used to work in the hangar.
The working approach with a greenhouse is different from a barn dryer. Presently, farmers work with large engines to harvest a large surface in one shot, when the weather is suitable during a long period. With my greenhouse dryer, you must make plenty of little harvests, but very often, because we are limited by the dimensions of the greenhouse, beginning in May when it is still raining and cold, and ending in September. So, we will have a rich and very palatable hay. The only downside is that the hay is highly digestible and the fat percentage in the cow milk is lower. That hay is too rich for horses but we can cut the hay later to have a poorer hay.
Does the sun destroy the vitamins in the hay in the greenhouse ? . In a the 2 ares of the greenhouse we can put 100 ares of the meadow or 1 hectare. When the hay is entirely dryed on the grassland, the hay is 50 times more exposed under the sun than in the greenhouse. In the greenhouse, only the upper lay is in contact with the sunrays. There is no problem with the vitamins.
I use such a dryer, but very small, because I have only 6 ewes. The dimensions of the greenhouse are 4 m * 3 m, and I have to move the hay with my hands. I am very pleased with it. My only difficulty is to move the hay. I made that hay on 10 May 2019. The hay was dry after 4 days without using a tedder on the meadow. The hay was composed of couch-grass. Outside we had 15 °C and 31 °C in the greenhouse. During 6 years I mad hay with that greenhouse, the dry process never failed.
You can see my greenhouse here :
You can see the propeller fan. The white engine above the fan is a dehumidifier De Longhi. It works with a heat pump. It absorbs ideally (at 30 °C) 25 liters water in 24 hours and has a power of 400 W. As to make 1 kg hay from grass at 40 % humidity 0,4 kg water must be extract, that means that to dry 3.000 kg hay, thus the cut of one hectare, we have to pay for the electricity :
25 liters / 24 hours * 0,4 kWh/liter water * 1.600 kg water to be extracted from 4.000 kg hay * 0,25 €/kWh = 166 € to dry one hectare with a cut of 4.000 kg dry hay. A dehumidifier is a good method to dry hay night and day, because it costs 4,15 €cent electricity/kg hay. It is not so much but if the farmer makes 10000 kg hay on 20 hectare each year, he will have to pay 8.300 €. In a Austrian farm of 30 hectares, the dehumidifier and the fan have, together, a power of 28 kW. The fan alone is 15 kW because it must cross 7 m hay, dry at the bottom but wet on the top.With a dehumidifier it is nevertheless more expensive than my greenhouse with two propeller fans with less power (144 € for 20 hectares). But let us talk energy : 25 liters / 24 hours * 0,4 kW is the same as using 0,39 kWh to extract 1 kg water. We find that in the documentation of large industrial barn dryers. 1.200 kg water * 10.000 kg hay/ha / 3.000 kg hay *0.39 kWh/kg water * 20 ha = 31.200 kWh annually used in the farm. In the Austrian farm, the ventilator has more or less the same power as the dehumidifier. We can conclude that 60.000 kWh are used on that farm annually. That is not ecologically very responsable. And we said that a dehumidifier is a reasonable solution. Think about dryer which are constructed at the present time and which use fuel ! We can compare those 60.000 kWh with the 576 kWh. needed for the ventilation of the greenhouse for the same volume hay.
We found this very interesting canadian document about the dehumidificers : https://www.agrinova.qc.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Fiche_Sechage_foin_Agrinova_2oct2014.pdf We see in it a farm which dries 700 ton hay in one year with 165.000 kWh with a dryer which costed 1.000.000 $ and its dehumidifier has a power of 48 kW. If we count with the Belgian electricity price, it costs as energy 165.000 kWh * 0,25 €/kWh = 40.000 € each year. That dehumidifier extract 36 kg water / kW / day. 1 kWh can extract 36/24 = 1,5 kg water. Ideally, a dehumidifier extracts 25 kg water in 24 hours with a power of 0,4 kW, which means 25 / 24 / 0,4 = 2,6 kg water. We see the great difference between those 2,6 kg and the 1,5 kg water actually extracted.
That canadian document explains that there are compact forage parcels in a barn dryer where the air doesn't go through. As in a greenhouse, the hay is regularly returned, compact parcels cannot exist.
With grass at 40 % humidity, 1.000 kg hay give 400 kg water and as to extract 25 kg water during 24 heures we need a power of 0,4 kW, we use 9,6 kWh, or 9,6 / 25 = 0,384 kWh / kg water. So, 1 ton hay requests 400 * 0.384 = 153 kWh.
It is funny to note that the little home dehumidifiers have het same performance as the big industrial dehumidifiers : 25 liter water extracted between 24 hours with a power of 400 W or 0,39 kWh / kg water.
Those figures are valid when the conditions are ideal : temperature 30 °C and humidity 70 %. A factory gives the absorption capacity for different tempeératures, for a dehumidifier of 20 kW :
30 °C 60 % humidity 760 kg captured in 24 hours.
27 °C 60 % humidity 680 kg captured in 24 hours.
20 °C 60 % humidity 501 kg captured in 24 hours.
We see that, if the temperature is lower than 30 °C, the dehumidifier is less efficient. We must know that, if the temperature goes above 32 °C, the dehumidifier stops working because the air temperature is higher than the plate delivering the heath. The heath goes from a warm surface to a cold surface, not the contrary. If the humidity of the air decreases under 40 %, the dehumidifier no longer will work correctly. At the end of the dry process, drying will cost a lot more.
If a 20 kW dehumidifier is working in ideal conditions, it must can extract in 24 hours : 25 kg water / 0,4 kWh/kg eau * 20 kW = 1.282 kg water. However, we see that the best performance is 760 kg water. We see there is a great difference.
We can compare a barn dryer with a dehumidifier with our greenhouse. If the cells of the barn dryer are 8 m large and 40 m long and if a lay of 1 m hay is put on it, we put 320 m³ hay. If we have 2 greenhouses 8 m large and 30 m long with a lay of 40 cm, we have 196 m³. If the density of hay in the barn dryer is 50 kg/m³, the weight of 1 meter hay is 16.000 kg. With 40 % humidity, we must extract 0,4 kg water/kg hay * 16.000 kg hay = 6.400 kg water. With a dehumidifier with a power of 15 kW, we know that it needs 0,39 kWh / kg extracted water. It needs 6,400 kg water * 0,39 kWh / kg extracted water = 2496 kWh. The dehumidifier works permanently. Between 24 hours, it needs 15 kW * 24 hours = 360 kWh. To dry 16.000 kg hay, it needs 2496 / 360 = 7 days. And we sayed that the dehumidifier needs 0,39 kWh / kg water, it was an ideal never reached..On the other hand, the 30 m * 7 m * 4,75 m greenhouse dries 1.460 kg hay / day as we saw above. Two greenhouses dry 2.920 kg / day and 16.000 kg hay are dry with 2 greenhouses in 5 days, or brought back on the same hay volume 5 * 320 / 196 = 8 days in the greenhouse,which is more or less the same as the 7 days with the dehumidifier which uses 7 days * 24 hours *15 kW = . 2.500 kWh and even 5.000 kWh taking account with the consumption of electricity of the fan, while the 2 greenhouses uses for their ventilators 2 greenhouses * 5 days * 8 hours * 0,18 kW = 14,4 kWh.
Let us still dream about dehumidifiers. Suppose a farmer installs several dehumidifiers in a barn completely closed and thermical insulated to keep night and day a temperature between 25 et 30 °C. This room can be first warmed up till 25 °C so that the dehumidifier has then its most efficiency. It must not exceed 30 °C because the warm panel of the heat pump cannot yet deliver its heat to the air of the room which has to refresh it. For 4.000 kg dry hay, 1.600 kg water have to be extracted, during 3 days, night and day, or 500 kg water in on day. As the dehumidifiers extract 25 kg a day, 20 dehumidifier for one hectare are necessay and 60 for 3 hectares. My own dehumidifier costs included VAT 400 € for one piece from a dealer. Exclusive VAT and for many pieces, it cost no more than 250 €, or 15.000 € for 60 dehumidifiers while I read in the farmer press that a dehumidifier for a little farm costs minimum 65.000 € . Where is the mistake ?
Farmers who likes a dehumidifier have to keep in mind that electricity price increases very much when the grass is very wet.We can calculate it :
This are some rates of humidity in grass and the corresponding wheight of water each time for 1 kg dry matter, and the price of electricity for one hectare in a year when 40 % costs 400 € for on hectare, as explained above :
16 % wet : 0,19 kg water 1 kg dry matter price 1 ha
20 0.25 151 €
30 0,43 260
40 0,66 400
50 1 606
60 1,5 909
70 2,33 1.412
80 4 2..424
90 9 5.454
If the grass is cut without any tedding, it contains 80 % humidity and using a dehumidifier costs 2.424 € for one hectare in a year.
If the farmer harvests 30 ha such grass, it costs 72.720 €. It is absolutely uneconomic.
If it rained on the grass, it costs then 5.454 € for one hectare during one year.
We explained that a greenhouse of 7 * 30 meter can extract 584 kg water a sunny day. A dehumidifier with a heat pump extracts 25 kg water a day with an electric power of 0,4 kW. To extract 584 kg water between 24 hours, it needs as power 584 / 25 * 0,4 = 9,34 kW. The Austrian farm had a dehumidifier of about 13 kW. Thus, 1,4 greenhouses extracts the same as a dehumidifier of 13 kW which is in service in a 28 hectare farm.
Another example found on the internet : a farmer dries 142 ton in 3 cells of 300 m³ each. Together, those cells have a volume of 900 m³. Those cells are 7 m high. The surface of the cells is 128 m². That farmer puts 3 hectares with 3.000 kg hay in 2 cells with a surface of 86 m². The density hay is 3 * 3.000 / 86 = 100 kg/m³. If the total surface of the dryer (128 m²) is used, the weigtht of stored hay is 128 m² * 1 m high * 100 kg/m³ = 12.800 kg. We said that we must extract 0,4 kg water / kg hay if the hay has 40 % humidity. In that barn dryer we must extract 12.800 kg hay * 0,4 kg water/kg hay = 5.120 kg water. If that farm has a dehumidifier, we need 0,39 kWh to extract 1 kg water. To extract 5.120 kg water, we need 5.120 kg water * 0,39 = 2.000 kWh. If the power of the dehumidifier is 15 kW, in 24 hours it needs 15 * 24 = 360 kWh/day, because a dehumidifier is working 24 hours a day. The barn dryer needs 2.000 kWh / 360 kWh/day = 5,5 days to dry. We know that 2 greenhouses dry in 2 days --> 2 greenhouses * 2 days *.1.460 kg hay placed in the greenhouse = 5.840 kg hay. In 5,5 days, those 2 greenhouses dry 5.840 kg hay * 5,5 / 2 = 16.000 kg hay instead of 12.8000 kg with the barn dryer. Two greenhouses of 30 m * 8,5 have a greater efficiency than a dryer with dehumidifier of 15 kW because we saw it dries only 12.800 kg.in the same delay. However, we must compare similar things because a dehumidifier is permanently working , night and day, instead of the greenhouse working mostly when there is sun..If I made this comparison, it is to demonstrate that the the greenhouses are very efficient, contrary to what is often assumed, and not only used by hobby farmers.
With the greenhouse, the grass may be wet : the dry process has only to be prolonged one or two days. The sun is free. I already had that case with my greenhouse of 3 meters on 4. It rained on the grass just after I cut it but with the greenhouse it was dry without any problem..
The harvest on the grass-land is easier with a greenhouse than with a deshumidifier because the dehumidifier must start with a hay at 40 % wet, 2 days tedding, while we can put hay in the greenhouse which stayed on the grass-land not so long. The hay is earlier save against the rain and will dry in the greenhouse instead of on the grass-land. So, we have more time to harvest and we can do it more relaxed.
A dryer with a greenhouse is more or less similar to a dryer where the air is heated under the roof of the barn. However, the greenhouse warms up more quickly when there is a a rift in the sky because with a barn, the sun must first warm up the roof..
In its magazine of september 2019, the magazine Wallonie Elevages talks about the Inno4Grass Awards. One of the laureate is a german farmer which has a barn dryer and who says "During May, the electricity increased with 8.000 €. We hope to limit the cost of hay barn drying at 10 cents per liter, which is an amount often published." That farm has 200 hectares grassland and 180 milk cows giving 800.000 liters. With 10 cents per liter, its costs yearly : 800.000 liters *0,1 € = 80.000 € yearly. If he would dry with 10 greenhouses of 30 * 8,50 * 4,75 m and propeller fan receiving the electricity from solar panels placed near the greenhouse, it costs then 0 €. Those german farmers will live poor and die rich because they are above those 10 cents.
Presently, the milk is payed 0,37 € / kg. Farmers say it is absolutely not sufficient. And if 10 cents are needed for the barn dryer, the actual price of the milk is 0,27 € ...
With such a big farm, the cows may not yet go to the grassland : one farmer cannot guide a herd with 180 cows. Other reasons therefore : if the farmer has an installation for biomethanization (cost : 2 millions de euros), the cow have to stay in the stable in order to keep their slurrys. With a milking robot, the cows have to stay near it, thus in the stable.
And when all those farmers will be pensioned , who iis the young people who can afford such expensive farms ? Perhaps investment funds but if the price of the milk stay low, they will not be interested.
Machine-intensive agriculture which is presently promoted is possible thanks to cheap energy. But we don't know till when that model of agriculture will exist.
It makes us think : what kind of agriculture do we want, what kind of society do we want ? A society with one farmer for 1.000 cows. A society where very few people have work and the others are homeless. I prefer this little breton farmer who has 8 very small breton cows on 7 hectares who has no financial worries and no debt and he and his family are entirely happy :
In a documentary film on the television, the RTBF says that in Belgium , during 2017, 40 % farmers earn less than 1.000 € a month. How much a very little farmer can earn ? Let us take a farmer with 10 Belgian Blue dual purpose cows. That cattle gives meat and milk. The calves are of good conformation. Their sales can cover the cost of that farm. Those cows give 4.000 liters milk a year while a Holstein cow gives 8.000 liters. That farmer can make direct selling because his production is limited. If he receives 0,75 € / liter, with other words 7,5 € / kg hard cheese, what is very few, his ten cows give him 10 cows * 4.000 liters * 0,75 €/liter = 30.000 €/year. In one month, he has 2.500 €.. It is more better than the 1.000 € of the RTBF.
It demonstrate in which gridlock the political leaders of the European Union and the banks are leading us. It is a headlong rush to become bigger and bigger in order to collect more incentives, because those incentives are payed per hectare.
The barn hay drying method or with a greenhouse is chiefly interresting with cows giving not too much milk such as the double purpose cows. With those breeds, you don't have to buy no longer soya beans, while with Holstein cows, it stays necessary. It is then less interresting to make hay in a barn or in a greenhouse.
A "normal" farmer will think a cow giving 8.000 liters milk in one year earns twice more than a cow of 4.000 liters. That is note right. Both earn more or less the same per hectare because, which is important is the food quantity given by the grassland. A cow which gives less milk has to eat less, we see it in the food tables. We can keep more cows on the same hectare when they gives less milk. That means that the milk quantity on one hectare is more or les the same as with specialised breeds. Dual purpose cows give more calves with better quality. Finally, the income is more or les the same with the two breeds, but the farmer has to look after more dual purpose cows, but cows which can be easilier feeded.
Moreover, the most popular milk breed in the world after the Holstein is the Jersey cow, a very little cow producing no more than 3.500 à 4.000 liters a year. But its popularity attests that it is very cost-effective.
Hay making in a greenhouse is very suitable in a farm where draft horses are working. With 2 greenhouses, we can make a harvest of 2 hectares at a time, which can easily be done with 2 horses. But at the end of the good season, it is possible to have 20 ha hay with 2 greenhouses. Those 20 hectares of hay will be fed during the winter. Normally, in that farm, there are also 20 hectares to be grazed during the summer. With 2 horses, we can let run a farm of 40 hectares. And with 4 horses, it will be a farm of 80 hectares !
You will say I am very "Martine on the farm" and you are right, but I like it better than a concentration camp for cows.
Hay milk : delicious !