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Get Better Quality Hay During the Baling Process

Attention to detail is key to making great quality hay. Throughout the hay-making process, reducing dry matter yield losses and conserving forage quality is key for optimal hay production. During baling, there are a few important factors to take into account to help ensure success when it comes to harvesting hay with your operations’ goals in mind. .

Hay Moisture Content at Baling

The greatest risk for dry matter yield loss during baling occurs when hay is baled at the incorrect moisture. The drier the forage, the greater the tendency for leaf shatter and dry matter loss while the hay is being picked up and enters the bale chamber to be formed into a bale.

The less dense the bale, the higher the moisture content at baling can be. For small square bales and most round bales, hay can be baled at 14-16% moisture. However, large square bales that are densely packed should be baled around 12% moisture.

In dry climates or when hay has dried to less than ideal moisture, baling after dew has set in and leaf moisture is higher than during the day can be a way of reducing crop losses due to too low of moisture content. Likewise, the use of a steamer during baling can be a way to incorporate moisture and reduce dry matter losses.

Baling hay at a moisture content that is too high can also cause reduced forage quality and dry matter loss. Hay that has greater than ideal moisture not only poses a fire risk, but also risks losses due to denaturing of proteins, caramelizing of sugars, and mold and mycotoxin development. When proteins are denatured and sugars are caramelized, their nutritional availability to the animal is reduced, reducing the potential performance of that animal consuming the forage. Mold spores and mycotoxins pose a risk to animal health.

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