In an ideal world, the weather would be predictable and cooperate with farmers allowing us to always produce excellent quality wheat straw, and for the most part, we do. Our best straw goes to racetracks on the East Coast and in the Southern US. Of course, the weather is out of our control, and sometimes the straw made later in the season isn’t that great. However, poorer quality straw for reclamation work is needed just as much as racetrack quality straw is needed.
What do Racetracks Look for in Straw?
Racetracks are looking for straw that is long, bright, shiny, and has no dust or mold. Even when a racehorse is in its stall, presentation is still important. Long straw stands up nicely in a stall and makes a fluffy bed. Straw that is bright and shiny adds to the overall presentation. Racehorses need to be in tiptop shape, so dusty, moldy straw is not tolerated.
Making Racetrack Quality Straw
Just as hay quality depends greatly on Mother Nature, the weather also affects the quality of straw. The amount and timing of rains, especially as the wheat is ripening, can turn bright straw into dark straw. After the straw is combined, a rain can also change the color of the straw, as well as create the potential for dust and mold.
Of course, we do everything we can to create our own luck to prevent the weather from ruining good straw. As soon as the straw is dry enough, we come in with three to four commercial balers and get to work. We average around 1,300 fifty pound bales per hour and between 8,000 and 9,000 bales per day.
The more we can get done when the weather is cooperating, the better chance we have of making good quality straw versus poor quality straw. Our line of equipment also includes three balewagons in order to keep up with our commercial balers. We do our best to end the day without any bales left in the field.
What is Reclamation Work?
Our mulch straw typically goes towards projects such as pipeline work- adding new pipelines carrying various materials cross country, or highway work- adding new or wider lanes. Areas where fracking is prevalent also need lots of mulch straw. Both pipelines and highways require lots of excavation of grass and dirt to make way for the new infrastructure. The reclamation begins after these projects are completed. The disturbed ground must be reseeded to grass for aesthetic reasons as well as for erosion control, often per EPA regulations.
Those in the reclamation market use mulch straw to help grass seed get started. The straw usually goes through a blower which chops up the straw and applies it on top of the new seed. This layer of straw holds much-needed moisture in, allowing grass seed to grow in less-than-ideal conditions. The straw also helps to keep the soil from eroding away until the grass has a root system to hold the soil in place.
We Know the Markets
J.D. Russell Hay & Straw started selling straw in the reclamation market in the 1980’s. As we gained knowledge about baling straw, we felt we were making straw that was up to the horse market standards. We have since come to know both markets very well. We also have developed a great way of shipping our straw in a manner that is hard to beat. Give us a call if you are interested in trying our racetrack quality straw or our mulch straw.