Picking the right size and type of hay and silage equipment for the job can have a crucial economic impact, says Dennis Buckmaster, Purdue University ag engineer. He says harvesting machinery and associated labor costs are often the single largest contributor to the cost of producing and delivering forages.

"For forage operations, you need to select a set of machinery, not just individual machines," he says. "Every farm is different, but there are somewhat consistent machinery sets for operations within a particular size range. Particularly with silage harvest, it is important to know the harvester's capacity to properly size other machinery."

He has compiled capacity information for a wide variety of forage machinery. He also developed a transport needs model to estimate equipment requirements such as the number of trucks needed to keep up with a forage harvester while maintaining efficiency. The model is based on variables such as speed, capacity, distance, crop and number of trucks. Based on simulations, a simple equation projects the number and size of trucks required to keep a forage harvester fully utilized.

Buckmaster will be a featured speaker at a Feb. 15-16 Indiana Cattle and Forage Symposium at the Indianapolis Marriott East Hotel. He will provide attendees with tools to help them utilize machine power more efficiently and better manage the hay and silage harvest.

"I intend to demonstrate the (production) cycle analysis and make it available for a limited time after the conference," Buckmaster reports. Additional information is in the research paper: "A Systems Approach to Forage Harvest Operations," published by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers in 2006. The paper is online at www.asabe.org.