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Nutritional Value of Hay in Wet Years

July 15th, 2009

With wet weather plaguing parts of Iowa during the first half of summer, we’ve heard questions regarding the expected nutritional value of hay cut for the first time in June, as well as unique storage issues associated with damp hay. Did the weather delay your first cut? If so, read on for answers to a few questions you may have.

What will the nutritional value of my hay be this winter if my first cut wasn’t until June? In an article on wet forage problems, Steve Barnhart, Iowa State University Extension agronomist, notes that the nutritive quality of a standing crop declines as it matures and is affected by spoilage miroorganisms in the high-humidity conditions, with the greatest decline in quality happening from late May to early June. The nutritive value of this hay could be fair to low, but Barnhart suggests having a sample of your forages analyzed to determine the precise feeding value. To learn more about analyzing your hay and how to use it for feed once its nutritive value has been determined, read Barnhart’s article “Wet Conditions Cause Forage Problems.”

If you’ve received an analysis of your forage sample and need assistance interpreting it, Barnhart suggests contacting an ISU Extension livestock specialist. To get you started, however, check out this eXtension article on understanding your forage analysis.

What precautions should I take when storing high moisture hay? Hay that is baled with greater than 20 percent moisture content can have a significant reduction in percent digestible protein, called “heat damaged protein.” There’s also a risk of “hot hay” if the appropriate precautions are not taken. Keep in mind the following suggestions when storing high moisture hay:

  • Store round bales outside individually, or in rows, only one-bale deep until heating has ceased.
  • Store large, rectangular bales inside, in a well ventilated area, preferably off the floor, on pallets or tires, with spaces between bales, and no deeper than one-bale depth.
  • Store small, rectangular bales inside, in a well ventilated area, no deeper than 4 to 6 feet deep, preferably stacked loosely with spaces between bales.

For more information on storing high moisture hay and avoiding dangerous situations with “hot hay,” check out Barnhart’s recent article on the topic.

Forages, Hay & Grazing , ,