Take care when baling hay under wet conditions Baling hay under wet conditions calls for careful management, a South Dakota State University specialist said.
SDSU Extension Forage Crops Specialist Peter Jeranyama said ideally, baling of alfalfa should be done when moisture content is 18 percent. A standing alfalfa crop is between 70 and 80 percent moisture content.
"The challenge is to dry down cut hay to 18 percent," Jeranyama said. "Drying down is fast between 80 to 28 percent, and much slower between 28 and 18 percent. Producers could help increase dry down rate by adjusting shields on a mower conditioner to lay thin layers of swaths."
Other approaches include the use of drying agents such as potassium carbonate, an alkaline salt. Potassium carbonate changes the surface wax on leaves and stems so that water may escape more readily.
But it has to be sprayed before mowing and conditioning.
Bacterial silage inoculants have also been used. They work best when plants have a lot of sugars and at high moisture. Buffered propionic acid is popularly used by hay growers and is non-corrosive. Buffered propionic acid limits mold growth in wet hay and lowers hay moisture of between 18 to 28 percent to 16 percent. Application rates are related to the concentration of the product.
"This acid has a tendency to change the color of hay to brown and if this is a concern, products that retain color should be used," Jeranyama said. "Propionic acid is safe for all livestock and there is no waiting period for feeding treated hay."
All these strategies work well when hay was harvested at the optimum stage of development and would obtain premium market value.
Otherwise older and over mature hay is not improved by use of drying agents, inoculants or acid.