People couldn't believe the way some of Brad Petschel's vetch hay looked last year.
But it wasn’t just the colour which attracted attention — the bales were heavier, and the feed tests were better.
“We used a different process and didn't leave it on the ground as long as we normally would,” he said.
“Doing this, we had a higher leaf retention and the hay was higher in protein and vitamins (and therefore had) more nutrients.”
This crop of vetch hay, a trial which included about five per cent of the Hopetoun hay grower and contractor's 1000 tonne production, was baled in less than a week.
The rest of this paddock was baled "conventionally" three weeks later.
Mr Petschel has been using the preservative Hay Guard from Tama Australia, coupled with a different method he learnt in the United States.
“I've been using it for five years, but the last two years I have been baling hay using this different method with Hay Guard to try and get a much higher quality product,” he said.
“I’m using it now to improve hay production, to limit weather damage on hay and increase yields.”
Mr Petschel's Hay Guard trial last harvest involved laying the vetch out in a wide swathe before it was raked and baled.
“The hay wasn't tedded, as it was a light crop, and it was baled during the day using plant moisture at 14 to 15 per cent,” he said.
“If the swathe had been heavy, the process could have involved tedding, within 24 hours, and raking it into a windrow 24 to 48 hours later.
“This would have ensured the swathe dried evenly and it would also limit the risk of mould and yeast infection.”
Mr Petschel made up to 18,000 tonnes of hay last year, including his own and contracting customers.
Going forward, Mr Petschel will look to use Hay Guard more as a tool to enhance the quality of his fodder.
“It is much easier to plan to bale,” he said.
“It is because we aren't actually relying on dew moisture as much because we have got plant moisture to bale with.”
Bales in this Hay Guard trial were about 100 kg heavier — up to 700 kg — with estimated gains of 10 to 20 per cent more hay per hectare.
“It is a lot more efficient in that we don't waste the plant in the paddock,” Mr Petschel said.
“You seem to be able to pick more of it up because it hasn't been sitting there to get brittle.
“The plant also sits there (on the ground) and it doesn’t blow away because it has more weight.
“The machines pick it up better, it isn't dry and crisp.
“It dries evenly, and using Hay Guard it is safe enough to bale.”