"This is halfway between standard hay conditioner rolls and a macerator."

That's how Ivan Cook characterizes his latest invention.

Called The Crusher, it's a "super" conditioner that completely crushes alfalfa stems without stripping off leaves. End-to-end crushing - not just every few inches like with most conditioners - makes the hay dry faster, says Cook, of Hermiston, OR.

The unit consists of specially designed rolls and a mechanism for applying pressure. The rolls, which replace the conditioning rolls in existing swathers and mower-conditioners, crush under heavy pressure, yet have a feed-through rate roughly equal to that of conventional conditioners.

The rolls are precision crafted and have a significant impact on hay drying rate, says Cook.

The Crusher was initially designed for use on his own farm. He built it because he was having trouble putting up hay without rain damage - especially the first and last cuttings.

Those are the cuttings most likely to benefit from more-complete conditioning, figures Jeff McMorran, an Oregon State University agronomist at Hermiston.

Last October, McMorran compared drying rates of Crusher-conditioned alfalfa and alfalfa conditioned with standard rolls. Both conditioners were mounted on self-propelled swathers, and in both cases the hay was laid in wide swaths and was raked before baling.

The new invention reduced drying time by one-third to one-half.

"If confirmed, this method could reduce post-cut field time by two to four days, reducing the risk of down hay being rained on," McMorran reported. "The shorter removal time could also reduce the likelihood of harvest damage to fast-recovering varieties and perhaps allow for an extra cutting some seasons."

In Western irrigated alfalfa fields, faster hay removal means water can be returned faster, possibly increasing the season-long yield, Cook points out. Also, shorter field-drying time means less sun bleaching.

Three years ago, Cook, owner of Circle C Equipment, also introduced the American Eagle big bale stacker after building the first three for his own use. It's currently being marketed nationwide.

Just introduced commercially, The Crusher can be mounted on any self-propelled swather with wide conditioning rolls, and soon will be offered for mower-conditioners with wide rolls.

Cook says increased hay tonnage and improved quality can quickly offset the $15,000 cost.

"It'll come with detailed instructions, and can be installed by any good mechanic," he says.

For information, contact Circle C Equipment, LLC, 333 E. Feedville Rd., Hermiston, OR 97838. Phone: 541-567-2992.