Once last summer, Irvin Helwer mowed and conditioned alfalfa in the morning, and baled it the following afternoon.

This Teulon, Manitoba, commercial hay grower was testing a new machine built to make hay dry faster. After cutting the crop, he ran it through a prototype Model 6600 macerator, from Agland Co., at Arborg in the same Canadian province.

The macerator, which conditions hay more severely than conventional methods, will be sold throughout the U.S. this year.

It works, says Helwer.

“I feel it will definitely cut a day or two off the drying time,” he states. “The chance of hay getting rained on will be far lower.”

The Model 6600 is the first macerator to be sold commercially in North America. The first one was built at the University of Wisconsin a number of years ago. Since then, several test models have been built at other locations, including Canada's Prairie Agricultural Machinery Institute (PAMI).

Agland bought manufacturing rights to the PAMI macerator. It has two rubber rolls followed by a pair of steel rolls. Roll clearance is controlled by air bags.

Ab Plett, head of marketing and sales for the company, says the machine crimps hay about every ⅛", compared with every 4-6" for conventional conditioners. It also removes the outer waxy layer from the stems of alfalfa and other crops.

“If you get that waxy layer off, it becomes a lot softer and more palatable,” says Plett. “That's where the quick drydown time comes from.”

In hot, dry climates, Plett says macerated hay dries in 24-36 hours. In more humid regions, it takes 36-48 hours.

The Model 6600 is 66" wide. But company engineers are working on a 96" model that's expected to hit the market by late summer. The macerator has the same roll setup as the PAMI unit, but a different overall design. One big difference: The PAMI macerator had a cutterbar; this one doesn't.

“We found that if you cut and macerate at the same time, the crop becomes so soft that it falls flat on the ground and the wind can't get through it,” says Plett. “So we recommend a 6- to 12-hour wilting time before you run the crop through it.”

Another reason to wait: When Helwer macerated wet timothy shortly after cutting, he had trouble getting the hay to feed through the machine.

The extra field trip was no big deal for him. “We often have to move the hay around to get it dry, anyway. An extra trip is very minor to us.”

After having used the macerator on five or six fields late last summer, he plans to buy one.

“In our area, it will be a very worthwhile machine,” says Helwer.

Agland is setting up distributors across the U.S. For the one nearest you, call 888-933-4440.