Wet Hay Burns Barns

Wet Hay Burns Barns
Created by rrummel on 7/19/2014 11:15:36 AM

Check Bales for Excessive Heat

Hay that is baled and stored at amoisture level higher than recommended could heat up enough to start a barnfire, a Purdue Extension forage specialist warns.

This season has been a problem becausethe number of days between rain has not been adequate, in many cases, to allowcut forage to dry to a safe moisture level when stored as hay, Keith Johnson said. Farmers that rushed to balehay without using a preservative when moisture content was greater than 20percent are at risk.

"A novice hay grower might think afire would likely develop relatively quickly - in less than a week - but itactually could take a month," Johnson said. "Growers should monitorthe temperature of their stored hay and notify their local fire department ofany potentially dangerous heat buildup."

If hay is not given enough time to dryand is stored prematurely, heat-tolerant microorganisms develop within thebales in high numbers, raising the temperature. When the temperature gets to150 degrees Fahrenheit, hay is entering the danger zone, and the stacked hayshould be taken apart to allow more air movement to cool heated bales, Johnsonsaid. Once the temperature reaches 200 degrees Fahrenheit, a fire is verylikely.

Such barn fires happen every year,Johnson said, and it can happen to experienced hay producers as well asbeginners.

Johnson offered this advice: To speedthe drying, lay the cut forage in a wide swath with a mower-conditioner. Haycut in a wide swath is exposed to more sunlight and dries faster. Theconditioner crimps the stems of newly cut hay and allows moisture to escape ata faster rate.

Johnson explained that an alternativeto storing forage as dry hay is to let the cut forage wilt to 50 percentmoisture and let it ferment to silage. This is accomplished by using anindividual bale wrapper or an in-line tuber that excludes air by wrapping thebales in white plastic.  This substantially reduces drying time, but thereis additional cost to package the forage crop.

Hay stored with too much moisture cancause other problems besides the risk of a barn fire, Johnson noted. Foragequality is reduced, livestock will eat less of the hay, and there can be riskof mycotoxins within the mold produced by microorganisms. Mycotoxins can causean array of harmful health concerns in livestock.

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