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How long to wait after straw is cut for drying / curing before best usage?

 
Rob Irish
Posts: 223
Location: Estonia, Zone 5/6
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Hi everybody,

We are looking at getting our first straw bales, firstly to build a cosy barn for the chickens and goats, and then onto bigger things with a straw bale house.

With the straw, how do we know when it is dry / cured enough for building? Should the straw bales that are harvested in the autumn sit over the winter in a barn? Or is it possible to use it the same year? Is a moisture meter enough to find the level of water content or are there other factors to think about as well?

Best regards,

Rob
 
Kevin EarthSoul
Posts: 135
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My understanding is that there is an optimum moisture level in the bales, and that it can be tested fairly accurately with a moisture sensor that is pushed into the bale (to test toward the center of the bale). Alternatively, but less accurately, it can simply be weighed. The bulk of the weight in a bale is its moisture content. If you know the given size of the bale, and it was baled under a pretty standard compression, weighing the bale will give you an indication of its moisture content.

I think, if you're getting started, you'll want to use a moisture sensor. Here's an article about it:

http://www.strawbale.com/how-to-choose-the-right-straw-bales/


As for how long to wait before baling-- I have no clue. I assume that people are using bales that are made in a typical fashion, so however farmers would typically do the baling (back when baling in the rectangular bales was common).

I would also assume that the dryer the straw is before baling, the less time it will take for the bale to dry to the right moisture level. But I think that straw is usually baled at a higher level than construction would warrant, and some drying time as a bale is recommended. Of course, bales sitting in a warm, dry barn loft will probably dry faster than a stack sitting between two tarps on the ground somewhere.
 
Rob Ketel
Posts: 27
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Straw is usually baled right after the grain has been harvested, or the next day after the dew has dried from the night before, or with a slight moisture content, depending on how dry the straw is. If you bale it too soon, you run the risk of pulverizing the straw in the baler.

If you bale the straw too wet, you run the risk of the bales composting and heating up. A pile of hay can start on fire if it heats up too much.

Growing up on the farm, hay was ready to be baled when you took a handful of hay, started twisting in a hand over hand fashion and made six passes. If the hay twisted apart after that, it was good to go, if it took longer, you waited, but if it twisted apart in two passes, you had to wait till the dew settled and you baled in the morning.
 
Peter Nelly
Posts: 3
Location: Sweden
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The word is to wait a year to let the waxy outer layer of the straw wither away, letting the plaster
get stuck better.
As for moisture content, the farmer won't bale it wet, or it would go bad for him. Work wasted. Our neighbour just waits a bit longer
if it gets rained upon to let it dry out again before baling.
He says he prefers that straw, since it sucks up the piss of the pigs better.

Weight I feel is difficult to use for a moisture estimate.
Some bales were heavier than others when we built our house. When looking at the structure of the bales these just had finer straws.

/Peter
 
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