Making Hay

 

Making hay is a common method of preserving fodder and straw around the world. It relies on the crop being dried down to a point where moisture levels will no longer support growth of spoilage  bacteria. To dry it, the crop is cut and raked into windrows, being turned from time to time to help the drying process. Energy from the sun is the drying source, and low humidity is preferred during the process to speed it up. Baling moisture levels are generally below 14% to ensure good quality hay.

Down the ages hay making hay as become a very precise process, with hay makers working to get their hay harvest done and bales out of the field before unfavourable conditions arrive. In some regions harvest occurs at a time of year where the weather is invariably dry and air is low humidity.

However, should unseasonal conditions occur and hay making is difficult due to wet weather during the harvest window, it can cause major problems. Some hay making regions also have regular rain events during the harvest, e.g. subtropical areas which require changed management of the process.

If the weather is cloudy, or high humidity exists, the whole process slows down resulting in bleaching, degradation of the hay, and growth of moulds can commence.

This results in low quality, or mouldy hay which is worth much less in price, or may be unsaleable.

In recent years, changes in technology, improvements in machinery such as the availability of conditioners etc have given hay producers and contractors more flexibility.

However, in recent years in Australia, there have been many situations where inclement weather during the harvest period has made it extremely difficult to make quality hay using standard hay making methods.

In addition to this, drought conditions during the crop growing season may result in crop failures, and the only choice may be to make hay. These “failed crops” are extremely hard to dry down due to stems with nodes and cereals with seed heads in the boot.

Hay preservatives have been available for many years. The original preservatives were chemical based, salts or acids.

More recently, technological advances and research has shown that hay producers can use bacterial hay inoculants to allow them to make hay under less than ideal conditions, at moisture levels up to 25% moisture.

High Moisture Hay

Many hay producers and contractors have been working with high moisture hay, using fresh culture bacterial inoculants such as Si-Lac Extra to enable them to bale hay at moistures up to the 25% level. By doing this, they can produce high quality hay, whilst beating the weather risk. Other contractors are able to start earlier in the day and work longer into the night, when moisture levels are elevated and usually present a risk. Others, producing high value hays such as Lucerne (alfalfa) hay bales earlier at higher moistures, use Si-Lac Extra to enable them to produce a higher quality hay due to less need for turning, and of a greener colour which is desired by some hay consumers e.g .  the performance horse industry. In turn this makes for higher value in the market.

Grevillia Ag has worked with industry to develop robust recommendations and use patterns for Si-Lac Extra hay inoculant with high moisture hay.

In summary:

 

There are a number of technical articles available that provide technical information on making high moisture hay. You can download and print these PDF files.

Getting the best from High Moisture Hay using Si-Lac Extra

Why should I use Si-Lac Extra with Lactobacillus buchneri when making silage and hay?

Making quality Lucerne (Alfalfa) using Si-Lac Extra

Calibrating Silage & Hay Inoculant Applicators

Measuring moisture in high moisture hay and silage