As the commercial hay market expands and becomes more structured, growers entering the market are improving their technology and equipping themselves with better tools to improve product quality and meet customer requirements.
This is the case of David Gouin of Ferme Francler in Saint-Julien in the Chaudière-Appalachian region. Running a dairy farm, the manufacturer started in parallel six years ago in the commercial hay market. “I have always been interested in producing quality dry hay. I saw potential there and we had free land,” he explains. Ferme Francler produces about 60,000 small bales a year, 80% of which are exported to the United States through Semican. “Year after year we are slowly growing. Now we are processing almost 800 acres (324 ha),” says David Guin.
When he had the opportunity to sow new pastures, the producer sowed them with millet and firewood, herbs that are prized by American stable owners. While he does three cuts for his herd of cows, he is limited to two for commercial hay. “Horses do not like hay that is too young. Therefore, we make the first incision a little later,” he says.
Always striving for improvement, the Saint-Julien grower has equipped himself with a smart meter to monitor the yield of his fields. “When it’s time to mow, I write down the weight of my bales and that tells me how many tons per acre I’m harvesting from each meadow. Everything is recorded in the registry. Therefore, I can monitor the yield of my fields for many years, and together with my agronomist, we adjust the application of fertilizers. »
David Guin also uses around twenty smart sensors to monitor the temperature of his bales. “When I harvest, I randomly place probes in the hay. Always pay attention to the first week. Thanks to an app on his mobile phone, he can monitor temperature changes in real time. “You have to read every hour. I’m at home and I get an alarm when it gets critical. From 40 degrees Celsius, the quality deteriorates, and above it becomes a fire hazard. We have dryers and we can respond when we need it. »
Last year, he had the opportunity to cultivate 250 acres of land. (101 ha) additional. “I couldn’t refuse, but we finished harvesting a little later than expected and the quality of the hay suffered,” explains David Guin, who therefore plans to use a second mower and four balers this summer instead of two to speed up harvesting. harvest stage. “The goal is to get the first cut in three weeks,” he foresees.
The biggest challenge for commercial hay producers is obviously storing valuable bales from the weather while waiting to be shipped south of the border.
Excellent quality hay requires about 12% moisture. On the prairies, grasses have a moisture content of 70 to 80%, but after they are cut and allowed to dry in the field for three to four days. This figure will decrease to 15-20% in the absence of rain.
“We’ve been building one shed a year for three years,” says Valerie Poulain of Ferme Valbois. Last fall they added a third warehouse (62 by 80 feet), joined by two more (60 by 100 feet) and an old converted barn (55 by 120 feet). “We also have several other leased properties located in strategic locations. With building material prices rising, Valerie Poulin talks about an investment of almost $150,000 in a new storage facility built last fall.
At Ferme Francler, David Gouin built his second warehouse in 2021. It measures 80 feet by 160 feet and is added to the first, which measures 60 feet by 150 feet.
This text was published in the May 2022 issue of L’UtiliTerre magazine.