Growers know the effects that moisture has on their hay harvest all too well. Here’s how hay preservatives and proper storage techniques can help ensure your hay retains the same quality as when it was first cut:
Moisture may be the most important factor to consider when it comes to hay baling season. If baling is done when the hay is too wet, you risk the development of mycotoxins that will spoil your harvest. On the flip side, if your hay is too dry, leaf loss increases, which reduces nutrient levels and leads to profit loss.
Hay is a natural insulator and can lead to excessive heating. The chemical reactions that produce mold, fungi and yeast also generate a significant amount of heat. Hay baled at moisture levels of 17% to 22% could heat to more than 115 degrees Fahrenheit when stored, which results in significant spoilage and bacteria growth. In fact, moisture levels of 27% and higher can heat to more than 140 degrees Fahrenheit, which is hot enough for spontaneous combustion.
Moisture management is critical to having a successful harvest. Producers can utilize hay preservatives to help extend their baling window, while proper storage techniques help avoid spoilage and produce a long-lasting, nutritious product.
Maximize every minute of your harvest window
Using hay preservatives makes the baling process more efficient as producers need not worry about uncontrollable factors, such as inclement weather, overnight dew and amount of daylight. Normally, the baling process would require harvesters to wait for each of these factors to produce the ideal moisture amount. With the use of preservatives, however, hay baling can begin before the sun even rises.
Buffered propionic acid is proven to be the most effective acid in controlling the molds commonly found in stored hay. While propionic acid has a pH of less than 1, making it extremely corrosive, the buffering process allows the acid to achieve a pH of 6, the same as rainwater. This allows it to be safely used around expensive equipment and livestock.
Hay preservative treatments — such as Case IH ThirtyPlus™ hay preservative — are specifically formulated to prevent valuable hay crops from spoiling. These treatments are effective on all types of hay, including alfalfa, grass and other crops susceptible to spoilage at higher moistures. Plus, they yield more tonnage and have higher relative feed value.
Proper storage can make all the difference
Moisture doesn’t just affect the baling process. It also can be a huge factor in where and how you store your hay. To ensure your hay remains the same quality as when it was first baled, follow these simple tips:
- Generate uniformity. Create bales of the same size and density to ensure each bale will react the same to environmental conditions.
- Store bales indoors. Seek out a properly covered building that is not subject to rainfall, leaks or flooding.
- Allow bales to breathe. Provide bales with ample airflow and avoid stacking, when possible.
- Ensure no ground contact. If bales are stored outside, place them on gravel or concrete to avoid exposure to ground moisture.
- Monitor the temperature. Check hay frequently to avoid exposure to excess heat and possible combustion.
Cutting your hay at the right time, in the right condition and during the right weather is not enough to ensure a successful harvest. Specially formulated hay preservatives can be a useful way to ensure maximum hay baling productivity year after year.