Ready, set, mow! First cutting alfalfa is underway in many parts of the state. Every pass across the field reduces the amount of dry matter you end up with in a bale. How much are you leaving behind?
One of the speakers at a recent PA Forage and Grassland Council Conference, said that they traded in their hay rakes for hay mergers even for use in dry hay. His reasons were to reduce dry matter (DM) loss and increase nutrient content in baled hay. Since they farm a significant number of hay acres, their return on investment may be quicker than some other farm businesses.
I was not able to find research reported on windrow mergers. However, their losses would be expected to similar to a windrow inverter because both types of equipment pick up the windrow and do not move it across the ground. What I highlighted in the table is the difference between the swath inversion losses and raking. Swath inversion losses of 1-3% DM loss, at an average of 1% DM loss, had no effect on nutrient content.
Of course, there are another dozen things that will affect your hay quality and dry matter losses. For more information on hay harvesting losses visit Reducing Harvest and Post-Harvest Losses of Alfalfa and Other Hay.