Farm owner David Fink of Heidel Hollow Farm in Germansville, Pa., is never afraid of trying new things.
He likes to be on the cutting edge of dry hay production, and the latest example of this was his purchase last year of two Chinook hay dryers.
Chinook, based in Alma, Ontario, Canada, has developed a mechanical hay dryer with a unique design: Heated spears that are each heated up to 120 degrees F and inserted into bales.
Fink found out about the machines last winter and he traveled to Canada to see them in action.
He was surprised by what he saw.
“It dried the bales in 15 minutes,” he says, adding that the typical drying time for hay bales is around four-and-half days. He likes his hay to get down to around 15% moisture for safe storage in one of his nine hay storage barns.
He placed an order for two Chinooks last spring and they arrived on his farm last fall.
Fink produces 2,000 acres of hay, mostly 3-by-4 or 3-by-3 bales that go for the horse market. The system can dry up to four 3-by-4 bales at a time or six 3-by-3 bales. He says the units can process about 8 tons of hay an hour.
The Chinook dryers were added to an existing barn. Two 150-horsepower units use a total of 800 amps of electricity to power the machines and dry the bales. While that seems like a lot of electricity on a typical farm, Fink says the power comes from the electricity generated from the farm’s solar panels, which were put in several years ago.
Chris Martin, president of sales for Chinook Hay Systems, says the hay dryers came on the market three years ago but have been in development for six years.
Martin, who also runs a 1,500-acre hay farm in Alma, says the original goal was to make a machine just for the farm. But the design attracted interest from other farmers, so the farm partnered with a local manufacturing company to make more dryers.
Only 11 units have been sold thus far — seven in Canada, the rest in the U.S. — with machines on farms in Michigan, Pennsylvania and South Dakota.
Martin sees a fit for the dryers in places with high humidity and moisture, and on farms that market premium hay.
“It's kind of a new concept. It takes farmers some time to see something new and get sold on it,” Martin says.
Go online to learn more about Chinook dryers.