We’ve been talking drought the past couple of weeks, but recently across Nebraska we have had some heavy rains. So what does that mean for hay that you recently cut that may have gotten rained on? Do you bale it wetter than normal to save quality or wait?

Wet hay can leave you in hot water. Remember that moisture can lead to combustion. All hay carries some bacteria, thermophilic bacteria are the ones that can cause combustion when stored. Twenty percent moisture is the highest we should go when baling, 25% to 30% is asking for trouble, because microbes will break down plant matter (giving off heat) and the threat of mold increases. Remember to check bale temperatures and anything above 170°F is high risk.

Quality is effected by moisture, but typically the biggest losses in quality come from the stand under the down hay, causing stunting of regrowth. From a forage quality standpoint of the cut hay the biggest loss will be soluble carbohydrates and typically protein will stay intact. Before feeding bales that were wet or baled at a higher moisture be sure to sample several weeks before you plan on feeding, to ensure quality.

Bottom line: if you cut hay only to then catch a rain, be timely but safe when baling and use quality control measures before feeding.

By: Megan Taylor, Extension Educator