When silage bags are used to store dry hay rather than corn silage or haylage, air becomes a friend, says Owen Brown.

In his new Air-Barn dry hay storage system, bales are placed in 12’-diameter silage bags. Then air is blown over and around them to remove heat and moisture as the hay cures. The result is greener, higher-quality hay than is possible with conventional barn storage, he claims.

Brown, a Pittsfield, IL, hay grower, also owns GFC, a company he formed to manufacture and market his first invention, the Bale Band-It small-bale packaging machine.

The Air-Barn is intended to be used with 21-bale bundles made by the Bale Band-It, but works with big square and round bales, too. Brown says 3 x 3’ and 3 x 4’ square bales can be loaded into bags three high. He’s working on an attachment for loading pairs of round bales side by side.

The system consists of a square-framed bagger, a 12” or 18” fan, fan stand and bag. Bales are loaded into the bagger with a front-end loader, utilizing a pair of hinged side panels on the bagger to help guide them in. The first bales are placed at the end of the bag, then the bagger is pulled ahead to unfold the bag and make room for more bales.

When the bag is full, it’s closed and secured tightly around the fan. The needed fan size depends on the hay’s moisture content, says Brown. Air is changed every 7½ minutes with a 12” fan; every four minutes with an 18” fan.

“So the ventilation is far superior than in a building,” he says.

Bags can be up to 250’ long. He recommends that the fan be run continuously for about 60 days; then it can be moved to another bag. A fan is needed even when the hay is very dry going in.

“All hay goes through a cure,” says Brown. “You’re going to have to run the fan, because you can’t put hay in a bag without producing moisture.”

Currently, he’s not calling the Air-Barn a dryer. He tells owners to bale at their usual moisture levels, using a preservative if that’s what they normally do.

The bagger has two wheels for pulling it to a new location, or it can be lifted and hauled with a loader. Bags can be filled anywhere electricity is available.

He says he built it because many potential Bale Band-It customers want to switch from round bales to small squares but don’t have enough storage. Some clients rent hay ground and don’t want to put a permanent structure on that land.

“We wanted something that would not be a capital investment like a building, plus be more flexible.”

In a 2012 test, Agri-King compared Bale Band-It bundles of preservative-treated and untreated hay stored in an Air-Barn and a building. The hay went into storage at 20.5% moisture. Air-Barn hay stayed cooler and tested 13 relative feed value points higher than the other hay at the end of the trial, Brown reports.

The invention costs $16,000, not including fans or bags. For more information, visit www.airbarn.com or contact Brown at 217-285-6487 or gfc@balebandit.com.

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