As with the rest of the country’s farmers, the weather plays a vital role in the life of Major Michael Wright who runs a 250-acre holding at Urker Lodger, Crossmaglen, County Armagh. But in a way he has an advantage over the majority of his farming colleagues.
When the 40 year old Major took over Urker Lodge 12 months ago, after a 22 year stint in the regular army, a hay drying unit on the farm proved an attractive bonus.
It had been erected a few years earlier by Major Wright’s father, Mr J F Wright, who has found the system a very useful development on the family farm at Gilford, County Down.
“Barn drying is not the complete answer to our usual Irish summers,” Major Wright told FarmWeek,” but at least it is a great help towards making hay between the showers so to speak.”
The unit runs to four compartments adjoining each other and occupying one half of a huge Dutch barn type building or double hay shed.
Each compartment has a capacity of 800 bales or approximately 20 tons of hay.
Individually the tiers are 25 feet in length by 12 feet in width and run to a height of approximately 20 feet.
The walls are constructed with concrete blocks carefully plastered to retain the air. The opening used for stacking the bales is sealed off with timber during the drying operation which occupies approximately 10 days for each 800 bales.
There is a wire mesh floor two feet from the ground through which the air is blown via a hatch on the outside of the building. Grain may also be dried in the unit.
Trojan air raters – the type used for warming circus tents – with a Petter engine have proved successful in supplying all the hot air necessary. This is blown through canvas tubing under the mesh floor.
Major Wright estimates the cost of drying at approximately one gallon of fuel per hour.
“It is not altogether a very cheap exercise,” he remarked, “but is attractive when compared with labour costs and the worry of saving hay in the traditional manner.”
Pat Hearty, who has been employed on the farm for the past 14 years, is enthusiastically behind the system.
“Ideally hay should be baled when it is half wilted,” Pat said, “and spaces between the bales in the dicer should be filled out with loose hay to retain the air blown in.”