A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

July 31, 2007

Wet Hay – What to Do?

Filed under: alpaca, Alpaca Care, Alpaca Nutrition, Alpacas, camelids, General — alpacalady @ 7:36 am

Last fall our neighbor planted some dryland wheat on his field and part of one of our fields that adjoins his property.  The agreement was that if he planted it we would allow him to graze our portion and once the hay was baled we would be able to keep a few bales.

Harvest time came and the hay was cut, let to sit for a while to dry out and then baled up into round bales.  With our wet spring we were fortunate not to have rain on the hay once it was cut – or so we thought.

When I last let the girls out to graze, several of them headed straight to the hay barn and started picking hay off the sides of the bales that had been harvested from our field (note – the girls are not silly and know where the hay is kept!).  We were pleased to see that the girls liked the hay from our field, we had had it tested and the test results were good for alpaca hay.

I started feeding the hay on Sunday.  I noticed when I was getting it off the bale it smelt different from our previous load of hay.  Not a bad or mouldy smell, but definitely a different one, a little like the smell of brome or even tobacco leaves.  The hay also felt a little different and was harder to prise off the bale.

During the evening I went out to check on the girls and was surprised to see hay still in their hay bunks, usually it disappears pretty quickly.

Yesterday as Ric was feeding he called me over to the hay, as he was trying to get hay from the bale the pitchfork had actually broken.  Until he could get to mend the pitch fork he pulled some hay off the bale and at that point realized that the hay felt damp and hot, not a good thing.

We have tried another bale from the same cutting and it too is dry at the ends but feels wet and hot in the middle.

So now we have a problem, what to do with the hay.  Fortunately we had just agreed to buy some hay from two different sources so we can hopefully get some different hay delivered to us pretty quickly.  However we have three and a half bales that are wet and hot.

Wet hay is not good feed as it can mold and also it loses some of its nutritional value.  Hot hay is a potential hazard as it can spontaneously combust.  So tomorrow we will be taking temperatures on the hay, if the temperature within the bale is over 96 we really have a problem on our hands and will need to carefully move the bales to a place where it will be safe should they burn (not that I can think of such a place right now, but I bet you I will pretty quickly if the hay is that hot).  The other suggestion has been to break open the bales and spread the hay to dry out.  We do have space to do that, but it will be a tedious process and we will lose a lot of hay, but rather that than lose the farm to a hay fire.

One thing that does puzzle me is that on researching this subject the documents I found referred to the optimum baling moisture of hay for big round bales being 18% or slightly less.  Our hay’s moisture content at the time of testing was 17.17%.  From what I have read some moisture is required in baled hay to allow for limited fungi to grow and for the bale to stabilize at around 15% moisture, so I am surprised that we are having problems with hay that has a 17% moisture content.  Of course wet hay is a subject on which I only have limited knowledge, so perhaps the answer on the moisture content on our hay is obvious to a knowledgable hay grower – if so I hope that hay grower will share the answer to my question with me!


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