Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Questions Answered: The Issue of Wet Hay

Many of you are already aware of the severe flooding in southeast Texas where my homestead resides. While my homestead did not suffer damage, we did wash out from heavy flooding. One question that has passed my inbox quite a bit lately is the desperate issue of wet hay.

* First and foremost- wet hay can be a dangerous host for mold spores which can devastate not only the health of our livestock, but our health as well. Practices for hay also apply to feed. Now, on to the questions:

1. How can I keep my hay dry during floods? Storing hay can be challenging, especially in my area because the weather can change in an instant. Ours is in an awning type stall, up off the ground, and away from blowing rains. My advice: in a stall, trailer, or shed off the floor (pallets work well). In an emergency cover it with tarps.

2. What if my hay got wet? Open it! We use square bales which we can break open and 'air the flakes' with fans. It won't keep mold out forever, so use the wettest bales first. If you see mold or if the hay smells musty, don't risk it! I put my wet hay in the compost- if it is moldy, cover it with a tarp to prevent the spores from dispersing.

3. How do I know the hay I am buying didn't get wet? That is tricky. Knowing your supplier is the best advice. In a pinch: touch it- it should feel dry and healthy, smell it- no must or wet barn smell, and if unsure stick you hand in the bale- if it's wet leave it!

4. What's the risk? "Molds commonly found in hay include Alternaria, Aspergillus, Cladosporum, Fusarium, Mucor, Penicillium, and Rhizopus. These molds can produce spores that cause respiratory problems, especially in horses and, under some conditions, will produce mycotoxins." (University of Minnesota Extension) Horses, ruminants, and poultry are equally susceptible to the toxins moldy hay produces. So are we!

 During the terrible storms this past week, my hay storage did remain dry as did my feed; we were fortunate. I hope this helps.. for more information or for specific questions please contact your local extension office and speak with your Agriculture agent. They are there to help!!

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