UNL CropWatch April 23, 2010: Hay Too Wet to Bale? Try Hay Inoculants and Preservatives

UNL CropWatch April 23, 2010: Hay Too Wet to Bale? Try Hay Inoculants and Preservatives

April 23, 2010

Hay-making season will start surprisingly soon. If rain often affects your hay-making plans, try hay inoculants and preservatives to get hay made without spoilage.

Legitimate hay inoculants contain bacteria and sometimes yeast or enzymes that can reduce the growth of micro-organisms that cause hay to mold and spoil. Be sure to use hay inoculants, not silage inoculants, as the latter rarely work on hay.

Inoculants work best when hay is baled at the highest moisture possible for safe storage without additives. Since windrows have uneven moisture and our moisture estimates aren't perfect, inoculants often protect against small errors and allow you to bale hay that is 3 to 5 points higher moisture than would normally store safely. (Don’t try to bale hay above this moisture level.) Inoculants tested in university-controlled studies failed frequently when moisture was over 25%.

Tests show that the only products that consistently permit reliable baling of hay that is too wet to bale are organic acids like propionic and acetic acids. Although these acids are more expensive than inoculants, when applied uniformly and at the correct rate, they work well.

Acid-treated hay will heat and become discolored, but most feed value will remain protected. Using the buffered forms of these acids will reduce the corrosion and odors that come from straight acids.

Bruce Anderson
Extension Forage Specialist