Don’t Burn Down the Barn or Make Your Stock Sick – What to Do With Wet/Moldy Hay

In many parts of the country, this year's weather was not particularly friendly for putting up hay. With lots of rain throughout the summer, you may have hay that is wetter than usual and that means  an increased risk of fires from spontaneous hay bale combustion. In this 5:19 video, Simon Whistler explains why wet hay catches on fire. It's a result of bacteria/microbes in the hay, breaking down plant glucose, and releasing energy, or heat, in the process. Above 15% moisture, the bacteria thrive, doubling their population every ten minutes. This means that as they eat more and more, and the population continues to expand, the amount of heat generated can increase quickly. How do you know if your hay is heating up? As Whistler notes, one of the first warnings can be signs of evaporation - like steam rising from the bales, or condensation in the barn. Another is that acrid, tobacco-like odor you've smelled that is associated with moldy hay. Of course, taking your bale's temperature is one of the best ways to know what's going on. You can use a long-stem compost thermometer, or drive a metal pipe into the bale and lower a non-mercury thermometer inside, as some experts suggest. But you might find Whistler's method easiest. He suggests inserting an iron bar into the middle of the stack. When you pull the bar out two hours later, how it feels in your hand will tell you what is happening in the stack. If you have difficulty holding i

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5 thoughts on “Don’t Burn Down the Barn or Make Your Stock Sick – What to Do With Wet/Moldy Hay

    1. Unfortunately, I have experience with this. Yes, they will eat some of it, but goats aren’t garbage disposals. Remember the cautions included in this article about the potential for mycotoxins to cause problems. And there will be some impact to lungs. They will cough and show discomfort. As the folks from UNL suggest, spread it out, and let them pick and choose and don’t force the issue. And be sure to protect your own lungs as well. Then provide them with an alternative, better hay too.

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