With a first cutting of hay down, here are a few important things to keep in mind when baling hay.
Last week, we got our first cutting of hay down. For my husband Tyler and I, that meant meals in the field and a date night of riding together in the tractor. With our first cutting of alfalfa on the ground, we are hoping the rain holds off until we are done baling.
Hay season certainly keeps us busy. We aim to get three cuttings each summer. Have you started cutting hay? Are you in need of moisture or is the rain keeping you from getting any baling done?
Although the full heat of summer isn't in full force yet, Marvin Hall, Penn State forage specialist, warns producers about hot hay.
"This time of year, farmers often know the hay they are baling is wetter than they'd like, but they are taking a chance, hoping to save a better-quality product vs. letting the rain cause the crop to deteriorate in the field. Unfortunately, moist hay can quickly become hot hay, which can ignite through spontaneous combustion.
"Most farmers strive to bale hay that is field dried to 20% or less in moisture. At this moisture content, the baled hay can cure properly and maintain quality. With moisture content higher than 20%, hay under storage conditions will generate more heat than can safely be dissipated into the atmosphere. As temperatures rise, dangers of spontaneous combustion increase. Farmers need to be diligent in checking their hay, especially if they know they baled hay that was wetter than normal. Smoldering hay gives off a strong, pungent odor. This odor is an indication that a fire is occurring. If even the slightest smell is present, farmers should take temperature readings of the stack.
"Reaching inside a hay stack will give an initial clue. If it feels warm or hot to the touch, that's a good indication that problems may exist. Knowing the temperature of the hay is the only real way of determining how serious the potential fire problem is before flames ignite," he says.
Check out more advice for handling hot hay here.
By the way, for those of you on Twitter, have you heard of #haytalk? It's an online community focused on discussing topics related to hay, forage and pastures. The next #haytalk chat will be June 7 at 8 p.m. CST. Join in on the conversation for updates on haying season from ranchers across the country!