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ARS Home » Midwest Area » Madison, Wisconsin » U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center » Environmentally Integrated Dairy Management Research » Research » Publications at this Location » Publication #347550

Research Project: Improving Nutrient Use Efficiency and Mitigating Nutrient and Pathogen Losses from Dairy Production Systems

Location: Environmentally Integrated Dairy Management Research

Title: Current best management practices for harvesting and storing dry hay: a research review

item Coblentz, Wayne

Submitted to: Meeting Proceedings
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/14/2018
Publication Date: 1/14/2018
Citation: Coblentz, W.K. 2018. Current best management practices for harvesting and storing dry hay: a research review. Meeting Proceedings. 2018 American Forage and Grassland Council Annual Meeting. January 14-17, 2018. Louisville, KY.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: The production of high-quality grass or legume hays in humid environments is complicated by slower drying rates, and increased probability of rainfall events compared to hay produced under arid climatic conditions. As a result, hay producers in humid environments often face the management dilemma of baling hay before it is adequately desiccated, or risking damage by rainfall events. Both options are undesirable, and result in reduced forage nutritive value. Forages damaged by rainfall events will lose sugars via leaching, or by prolonged or reactivated respiration. Damage is greater if rainfall events occur when forages are nearly dry enough to bale, and additional losses will occur during the additional field manipulation required to dry rain-damaged hay. As a result, fiber concentrations within the hay are increased, and the energy density of the forage is reduced. Some studies also suggest that a soaking rainfall event may reduce voluntary intake in cattle by about 10%, compared to undamaged hay. Forages baled before adequate desiccation has occurred are subject to spontaneous heating, which is regulated by bale moisture, bale size and/or density, climate, storage location/conditions, and the use of preservatives. Among these, the factor with the greatest impact is bale moisture. Bale size also can be particularly important, and becomes more problematic with large-round or large-square baling equipment, as well as with storage in large stacks. Consequences of spontaneous heating include respiratory losses of plant sugars, increased fiber components, formation of Maillard products (heat-damaged protein), reductions in energy density, and the potential for spontaneous combustion.