A short time ago, I asked Len Reggie how he would get warm season grass from the field to the poultry house. The material needs to arrive in a “ready to use” condition. Len is a very talented engineer. He responded very quickly to my request. Below is that response.
Here is what I have come up with so far concerning harvesting grass for poultry litter.
A one pass harvest system is the ultimate goal.
A single chop will minimize dust, an absolute necessity for animal litter.
A bale density of 30#/cu.ft will minimize shipping costs.
Minimal handling will reduce costs.
It may be advantageous to contact a broker to expedite sales.
First, the harvesting method. There are two options, a flail chopper and a forage harvester.
See http://agriculture.newholland.com/au/en/Products/Hay-and-Forage-Equipment/Documents/260613Pull%20Type%20Forage%20Harvesters.pdf for example. other companies make them as well.
A flail chopper will harvest and chop in one pass and avoid picking up dirt and rocks. extra knives can be added for a finer chop. The disadvantage is that the chop size will vary with varying feed rates. Adjusting tractor speed may overcome this problem sufficiently. A field test is necessary on dry material. Used equipment can be purchased at very reasonable cost. New machines run about 15K.
Secondly, a forage harvester. This is the ideal machine when chop size is critical. You add or remove knives to adjust chop size. The machine has powered feed rolls similar to a wood chipper. The disadvantage is that they are designed to pick up a windrow, which means an additional pass to cut the grass and the introduction of dust, rocks and material loss. A corn head is available but I don't know if a grass head is made by any manufacturer. It may be possible to engineer a cutter bar in front of the pickup head. I am sure some farmers have experience with this equipment so feedback is important.
Obviously a self unloading wagon is necessary. Three may be required for a continuous harvest. These are readily available used for reasonable cost.
Next is bagging. In my opinion the best method is a compression baler. See http://rethceif.com/products/rethpack-hc-2010 for example. These are available in semi manual to fully automatic and can be purchased used since they are very common.
In order to maximize production, the baler should be sized to match harvest rates. the baler can be fed directly from the self unloading wagon. The bales should be sized to fit a standard 40 x 48" pallet. At a density of 30 # /cu. ft. a one ton pallet will be 60" high. Pallets can be stored outdoors. A 53 ft flatbed will carry 24 tons. Obviously the bagging system needs to be portable so it may have to be engineered.
There is another possible market for bagged grass. Hydroseeding.
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This is worth looking into.