Dry hay should have a moisture content of less than 20%, but the ideal moisture content for dry hay is between 12-15%, which will give optimal quality for storage. Too much moisture can lead to mold and mildew which reduces the nutritional value of the hay and causes potential health problems for animals that consume it.
If hay is too dry, it is more prone to spontaneous combustion, which can be a serious fire hazard, and has the potential to destroy thousands of dollars worth of hay feeding an entire herd of cattle.
It’s important to get the moisture content of hay just right so that it can be stored safely and the nutritional content is preserved.
How do you know when hay is dry enough to bale?
When hay is dry enough to bale, it will have an even golden brown color, will be dry to the touch, and will easily break apart. Additionally, if you take a handful and squeeze it tightly, it should not form a ball or clump.
The surface may be slightly sticky (due to the natural sugars in grass), but it should not be wet or slimy. Finally, if you hold the hay up to your ear and shake it, you should not hear any moisture sloshing around inside (that signifies that the hay still contains a significant amount of moisture).
If you are still unsure about whether the hay is dry enough, you can conduct a few test baling sessions – if the hay is too wet, it will not form properly and the bale will not hold its shape. In this case, you’ll know that you need to wait a bit longer before baling.
How do you check moisture in hay before baling?
Checking the moisture of hay before baling is an essential step in hay production. If hay is too wet, it could result in excessive heat and mold growth during baling and storage. On the other hand, if hay is too dry, it will break down into dust and be of little value as animal feed.
To properly check the moisture of hay, you will need a hay moisture meter. These can be purchased from agricultural supply stores and work by measuring the electrical conductivity of a hay sample. You should measure the moisture in a minimum of three to five randomly selected hay bales from the field, mix the results, and calculate the average moisture content.
Ideally, the average should be between 15-20% for baling and storage. If the hay is under 15%, additional water should be added before baling. If it is over 20%, additional waiting time is necessary before baling.
Additionally, the hay should be visually inspected for a uniform color and smell, which typically indicates hay of good quality. If the hay is too wet, it will have a lime green color and the smell of ammonia.
If too dry, it will be brittle and dusty.
Can hay get too dry to bale?
Yes, hay can get too dry to bale. While hay needs to be dried to a certain point in order to be safely stored and preserved, if it gets too dry it can lead to problems. Hay that is too dry is difficult to bale and can lead to weakened bales that can easily break or degrade.
In addition, hay that is too dry also has a greater chance of catching on fire since there is less moisture in the air to dampen down flames. For these reasons, farmers and ranchers need to pay close attention to the moisture content of their hay and ensure it is not too dry before attempting to bale it.
What happens if hay gets wet before baling?
If hay gets wet before baling, it can be a cause for concern, as wet hay is much more susceptible to spoilage and deterioration during storage. Wet hay can develop mold and fungus quickly, which can be toxic to the animals consuming it.
It can also lose many of its nutrients and the storage life of wet hay is much shorter than that of dry hay. Additionally, wet hay is much heavier, so when storing it, some bales may be more prone to shifting and even breaking apart.
As such, it’s important to make sure hay has had ample time to dry before baling to avoid any of these potential issues. If the hay has already gotten wet, the best option is often to spread it out on a flat surface such as a tarp, and let the sun and wind help dry it out.
Additionally, combining small amounts of dry hay with the wet hay can help to speed up the drying process.
What happens if you bale damp hay?
If you bale damp hay, you run the risk of it not curing properly, which can result in significant damage to your hay crop and cause a loss of nutritional content. Damp hay is more likely to rot or mold which can cause the loss of vitamins and minerals, as well as create an off flavor that can render the hay unusable for livestock.
Additionally, baling wet hay can create clumps of wet hay that trap moisture and prevent air circulation, which can increase the risk of fire. Moisture trapped in the bales can also increase the risk of fusarium, blue-green mold, and insect infestation.
These fungi and mold can be harmful when ingested by livestock. Furthermore, hay moisture content that is above the recommended levels can lead to nutrient leaching, which can create an even greater loss of nutrients, along with an increase of dust and other fine particles.
For these reasons, it’s important to ensure that hay is properly dried before baling.
At what moisture does hay mold?
Hay is a highly combustible material, particularly when it is exposed to high levels of moisture. While hay contains only a small percentage of water, the water content can vary significantly depending on the growth conditions, soil composition and other factors.
While most hay would begin to show signs of mold growth at moisture levels of 15-20%, the risk of mold growth increases as moisture levels become higher. To minimize the risk of mold growth, hay should be stored in a dry, well-aerated area when the moisture content reaches 20% or higher.
Additionally, hay should not be stored directly on the ground, as moisture from the ground can increase the risk of mold growth. By fostering a dry and well-aerated environment, farmers can help decrease the risk of mold growth, even when hay is stored at higher levels of moisture.
Can hay dry too long?
Yes, hay can dry too long. When hay dries beyond the ideal moisture level, it is more likely to crumble into powder instead of being able to be used as hay. Additionally, if hay is allowed to dry too long, it can also develop mold, which can make it dangerous for animals to consume and cause them to become ill.
The optimal amount of moisture for hay is between 18-23%, and if it is left to dry too long, it can dip below the ideal level and become brittle or chaffy. It is important to monitor hay that is in the process of drying and ensure that it isn’t left out for too long, as it can quickly become unusable.
Can you rehydrate hay?
Yes, hay can be rehydrated by a process called “hay steaming”. Hay steaming involves exposing the hay to high temperatures and moisture in order to make the hay more palatable and nutritious for animals, and to reduce dust and other contaminants.
The process is usually done in large insulated silos and it takes anywhere from eight to twenty-four hours. The hay is first loaded into the silo and heated for several hours before being allowed to cool and rehydrate.
The hay should not be heated to temperatures exceeding 212°F (100°C) or heated for too long as this can affect the nutritional quality of the hay. After cooling and rehydrating, the hay is then unloaded and spread out, ready for animals to consume.
How long is hay good for if kept dry?
The shelf life of dry hay will depend on various factors such as the type of hay, its moisture content, storage methods, and environmental conditions. Generally speaking, dry hay that is stored properly can last anywhere from 1-3 years.
However, its nutritional value diminishes over time and it can begin to lose its flavor and aroma. It is best to rotate stored hay every year for optimal freshness and quality. Doing so can ensure the hay remains free of mold, mites, and other contaminants.
Additionally, it is important to store hay in a dry, cool, and well-ventilated space, away from direct sunlight to prevent it from heating up.
Will dry hay mold if wrapped?
It is possible for dry hay to mold if it is wrapped in plastic. This can happen if the hay is packaged before it is totally dry and when it is left in the plastic it will not be able to breathe, making it an ideal environment for mold to grow.
This problem can be avoided if the hay is properly dried before it is packaged in plastic and with proper storage in a dry, ventilated space. Anytime hay is in a plastic wrap, it should be checked regularly for mold.
How much moisture should be in a bale of hay?
The amount of moisture that should be in a bale of hay depends on the type and quality of hay, as well as the climate in which it is stored. Generally, hay should be stored at a moisture range of 15-20%.
If hay moisture is too high, it can cause mold, which can be harmful to animals and the hay itself. If hay moisture is too low, it can cause the hay to become brittle and may cause it to lose its nutritional value.
The best way to accurately measure hay moisture is with a hay moisture tester, which can be found at most agricultural supply stores. If a hay moisture tester is not available, you can perform a simple hand-squeeze test: If hay is too moist, it will feel very sponge-like, and if it is too dry, it will crumble in your hands.
When properly stored, bales of hay should last up to a year, depending on the climate and the quality of hay.
How long after you cut hay can you bale?
The answer to this question will vary based on a number of factors including the weather conditions, humidity levels, and how long the hay had been sitting in the field before it was cut. Generally speaking, however, you should wait at least twenty-four hours or more after cutting hay before you begin to bale it — the longer you wait, the better.
During that time period, the hay will begin to dry, making it easier to bale, and provide more substantial bales that are of higher quality. Waiting to bale the hay after it has dried will also help to minimize the risk of mold and weather damage to the bales.
How wet is too wet to bale?
It is generally considered too wet to bale hay when the moisture content of the hay is greater than 18% – 20%. If hay is baled at a moisture content above 20%, there are risks of mold and rot, as well as reduced quality, nutrition and palatability for livestock.
Hay that is too wet may also be more difficult to handle and store, creating the potential for damage and wastage. Additionally, wet hay can lead to fires and dust explosions in baling and storage equipment.
For maximum quality, nutrition, palatability, and storage and handling safety, hay should be baled at a moisture content of 18% or below.
What is a safe moisture for small square bales?
A safe moisture level for small square bales is between 15 and 22 percent. Moisture content should be tested using a hay moisture tester prior to baling, as moisture levels that are too high or too low can affect hay quality and amount of hay yield.
Moisture levels that are too high can lead to mold, heat damage, and increased risk of spontaneous combustion, while moisture levels that are too low can lead to hay that has less nutritional value. To determine moisture content, hay samples should be taken from several locations in the field and tested with a hay moisture tester.
It is important to note that moisture levels can change depending on the weather, so it is important to continuously monitor moisture levels during baling and storage.