Hay is a critical resource for livestock owners, especially during winter. If you’re in charge of hay production and baling, you’re probably aware that many steps are involved in ensuring it’s ready for feeding.
The first phase of the drying process results in moisture loss through the leaves and stomates, which close when in the dark. Thus exposure to humidity and sunlight strongly influences this initial phase. The final drying phases rely on moisture loss through the leaf surface and stems, and conditioning is critical during these phases.
But some farmers rush through this process because they need their hay baled quickly—or perhaps they don’t realize how much time and money they waste when they do not do things correctly.
Consider these six hazards of rushing through your hay baling process. These will help you along the way, and you can visit B&D Rollers for more information.
Increased Potential for Combustion
If your hay is too wet, you may also experience increased temperatures. This can cause the hay to begin heating sooner than usual. The faster a bale heats up, the quicker it breaks down and loses its structural integrity, which could lead to spontaneous combustion.
Hay, at moderate risk for heat spots and spontaneous combustion, has a moisture level between 18%-22%. High-risk hay has a moisture level greater than 22%. The optimal moisture level for hay is between 14%-18%, with levels lower than this beginning to diminish the forage quality.
The internal temperatures of overly wet hay can continue to rise, creating explosive gases and potentially becoming combustible. You need to use extreme care when handling bales that have not dried sufficiently.
Higher Levels of Mold Growth
You may be tempted to rush the dry-down process to get your hay bales out of the field faster and more efficiently. But when you rush your hay bales, you risk your safety and health. In addition to the combustion risks outlined in the last section, mold, fungus, and bacteria can grow on wet or improperly dried hay that has been left outside for too long.
As a result, they can become infected with harmful pathogens that could be transmitted to other crops or animals if they come into contact with them later on down the line.
Pest infestations seriously threaten your hay baling process and can be hard to spot. The first sign of a pest infestation is when you see that your hay bales are full of tiny holes.
These holes usually mean that some insect has been eating through the bales, making it impossible for you to sell them at their maximum price.
Some insects are more destructive than others and will eat through the entire length of a bale in just a few days. Therefore, if you don’t catch them early enough, then there’s no way for you to save your product from being destroyed before it even reaches its destination.
Limited Shelf Life
It’s important to remember that hay loses nutritional value with time. If you rush your hay baling process, your crop won’t last as long. It can be a waste of money if it gets wet and moldy before it’s over.
It also loses nutritional value with heat. Overheating hay causes its protein content to break down into amino acids, which aren’t nearly as nutritious as whole proteins. When this happens, the hay can no longer meet the needs of hungry cattle and horses.
Reduced RFV (Relative Feed Value)
RFV is the amount of energy, protein, and other nutrients available for animals to use. You can measure it by comparing the feed needed to provide the same energy as a reference feed. The higher the RFV, the more nutrients are available in your hay bales.
As the plant moisture content falls below 60%, so does the amount of drying that occurs naturally along the leaves and stems. Using a hay conditioning roller like The Crusher, which conditions the hay as it is cut, allows for more water loss at the breaks along the stem.
These breaks along the stem allow for rapid initial drying, reducing the loss of starches and sugars, thereby preserving the total digestible nutrients and raising the RFV. Low RFVs can lead to health issues like weight loss, poor body condition scores, and early breeding problems.
Low RVFs also lead to your animals needing more feed than usual to get the same amount of energy from their food as they would if they were eating hay that you had adequately dried. Check out B&D Rollers for more information on how conditioning rollers can improve your forage quality.
Clumping and Binding
If you’re eager to get your hay baled, you may find it tempting to rush the process and create wet bales that are too soft. However, this can result in clumping and binding inside of your baler. Clumping and binding occur when the moisture content of your hay is too high (over 40%).
When grasses are young, they contain less lignin than more mature plants do and thus have weaker cell walls. In addition, if the crop has been cut too early or late in its growth cycle, it will not have time to dry properly before baling.
When clumps form within a bale, they become impossible to compress and pack together into tight compartments due to excessive moisture content. This leads to poor quality bales, which will spoil quickly if not used immediately after baling.
Considering all the facts
With hay bale delivery being the preferred means of feeding livestock, it’s crucial to understand the potential costs and ramifications of rushing through a dry-down process and not conditioning your hay.
Proper harvesting and baling process benefits include increased feed value, increased shelf life, and reduced nutrient losses. Given the risks involved with rushing through this process, give yourself plenty of time to allow for the first drying phase and incorporate conditioning rollers to optimize the final drying phases.
If you have questions or concerns about conditioning rollers and how they fit into the process, please contact B&D Rollers today. The Crusher conditions and flattens the entire stem thoroughly, resulting in minimal leaf loss and rapid hay drying.
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