One of the biggest projects I have been working on is a newspaper article for the Messenger Inquirer. Every week, Clint Hardy, the Agriculture and Natural Resources Agent in Daviess County, writes an article for the paper about a pressing agricultural topic amongst farmers. This week Clint gave me the opportunity to write an article for his section of the paper! Since hay harvest and storage is approaching, I decided to write an article concerning this topic. I have displayed the article below for everyone to enjoy!
Hay Harvest and Storage
My name is Lauren Settles and I am an intern for the Cooperative Extension Service in Daviess County this summer. I am an undergraduate at the University of Kentucky studying Plant and Soil Science with minors in Animal Science and Agricultural Economics. Throughout my time as an intern this summer I am shadowing the role of the Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension Agent, Clint Hardy. By the end of the summer I hope to be better prepared to go into the agricultural industry after graduation and make an impact in the Daviess County community that I grew up in. One of my requirements is to write a newspaper article. Since some farmers are starting to harvest hay in the county, I thought an article about hay harvest and storage would be appropriate. As most producers know, it is very important to take precautions when harvesting and storing hay.
As hay harvest quickly approaches, producers are looking forward to storing high quality hay for their livestock. Producers endeavor to produce, store, and feed high quality hay, however a great deal of hay is lost each year through storage. Most hay producers in Kentucky store round bales. Although large round bales are an efficient feeding method, they are most prone to losses. Hay losses can mostly be contributed to the conditions the hay was harvested and stored in. When hay has been damaged it is less palatable to livestock and does not have good nutritive value. Weather conditions and the type of storage methods play a huge role in minimizing hay losses.
To reduce hay losses during harvest and storage, producers need to remember to think about fire prevention. Hay changes significantly after baling. When baled, a spontaneous combustion fire can easily occur. Spontaneous combustion fires are caused by extreme heating in stored hay resulting from microorganism activity in bales stored at too high of a moisture level. Even if the excessive heating doesn’t cause a fire, it will reduce forage quality. It is a good idea to periodically monitor hay temperature until you are sure there is no danger of fire. All baled hay at moisture contents above 15 percent will experience some elevation in temperature, also referred as “sweating.” When the hay is stored at too high of a moisture the color of the hay can also change. This is another way to detect the amount of moisture and heat damage within the bale.
Hay commonly reaches temperatures of 120 to 130 degrees F. This heating level poses no serious threat of fire or quality loss. Temperatures ranging from 130 to 160 degrees F decrease forage quality by reducing protein and dry matter digestibility, and increasing fiber levels. At temperatures of 160 degrees F or higher, it is possible the hay will heat further, reach combustible temperatures, and catch on fire.
There are many hay storage options, depending on the type of operation and how much money the producer is willing to invest. In the Daviess County area, most hay producers store hay either outside on the ground with plastic wrap or in permanent hay structures. One of the cheapest hay storing options producers use is outside/on the ground. However, this option can often result in the highest hay loss percentage. Moisture is very susceptible to reaching the hay (especially at the bottom of the bale) resulting in low air movement and damaged hay. To prevent hay losses while storing outside, a well-drained area should be selected while using pallets or tires to lift the bales off the ground. This would allow sufficient space between the bales for air flow and prevent collection of water and potential spontaneous combustion fires.
The Kentucky Department of Agriculture offers a Forage Testing Program to producers to test the quality of their hay. A producer has the opportunity for a KDA staff member to take samples of hay at the farm and analyze them in the KDA Forage Laboratory. By testing forages and knowing the nutritional value, producers can minimize cost and maximize production. Any hay producer in the state of Kentucky is eligible for this service. If you are interested please contact Jim Wade at (270) 776-2172 or email@example.com.