Does rain often damage your high quality hay just before it’s ready to bale? There is a baling method that may help solve that problem.

                Rain plays havoc with hay quality.  Even when you study weather reports and do your best to cut when good drying weather is expected, just before your hay is ready to bale, it gets damaged by rain.

               So what are your options when dark clouds are on the horizon and your hay still is a little too wet?  Well, you could go ahead and bale that tough hay and hope – hope that it doesn’t spoil, or even worse, get hot and burn.  Or you can wait out the storm and cross your fingers that you get good moisture for your row crops but it skips over the hay fields.

               There is another option.  Maybe you bale it tough, then wrap it with stretch wrap plastic to keep water and air out while keeping nutrients in.

               Studies have shown excellent success wrapping bales containing twenty-five to forty percent moisture.  After a full year in storage, the hay came out of the wrapping in great shape, with very little storage loss, a nice silage-like odor, and well-preserved nutrients.

               Wrapping tough hay reduces weather risk because wrapping often occurs at least a day sooner than normal baling.  Both yield and forage quality can be higher because fewer leaves are lost than with dry hay.

               It does take a lot of plastic, though.  Six or seven layers are needed to maintain feed quality.  If you don’t use enough plastic or fail to repair any holes, this kind of hay can spoil very fast.

               Wrapping slightly tough hay in plastic can improve your forage quality and reduce weather losses.  If rain damage often plagues your hay making, it might be worth looking into.

Bruce Anderson, Nebraska Extension Forage Specialist