Although there was a good window to make quality dry hay the week of June 17th, rainy weather continues to be challenging, and there is significant first-cut remaining to be made. Yields are good, but maturity is now quite advanced. Second-cut regrowth is excellent on early-cut haylage fields, and second-cut will begin shortly. Hay prices have been holding steady to date, as many farmers are rebuilding forage inventories.
Lots of propionate hay preservative and plastic wrap has been used, but making dry hay has been more challenging. (Preventing Mouldy Hay Using Propionate Preservatives http://fieldcropnews.com/?p=3655 & Baleage Tips http://fieldcropnews.com/?p=3531)
It is essential that hay storages have adequate ventilation to enable moisture to dissipate from bales. Tightly stacking bales should be avoided. The use of pallets prevents spoilage of the bottom row of bales.
Be sure to monitor hay storages for heating. Hay that is baled at too high a moisture will heat rapidly. Heating occurs from the rapid growth and respiration of mould and bacteria. If the moisture and heat cannot dissipate, more microbial activity creates even higher temperatures and more moisture is produced. This process becomes self-sustaining. Even low amounts of heating can result in dusty hay with reduced feed quality and palatability. If severe, heating can result in a barn fire. The critical time for spontaneous combustion is usually 2 to 3 weeks after the hay is put in the barn. If you detect a slight caramel odour or a distinct musty smell, chances are you have a problem. Probe-type hand-held electronic moisture testers are a useful tool to monitor hay heating. Keep in mind, the moisture readings can be subject to variability and error, and testers should be calibrated to forage species, bale type, acid use, bale density and whether or not propionate was applied. Hay bale temperature 2 – 3 days after baling will often be 10°F above what the ambient temperature was at the time of baling. However, temperatures above 120ºF indicate that there is some microbial activity underway that may become a problem. For critical temperatures and other information, refer to“Silo and Hay Mow Fires http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/english/engineer/facts/93-025.htm ) If a temperature probe is not available, insert a copper or metal pipe into the mow. If after an hour it is too hot to hold with your bare hands, there is a severe problem.
Alfalfa weevil larvae are still being reported in 2nd -cut regrowth, sometimes above threshold levels. If you see feeding damage, scout to determine if healthy larvae are above economic threshold levels. Insecticide is recommended only when cutting is impractical, such as when the alfalfa is more than 10 days before harvest maturity. (Alfalfa Weevil http://fieldcropnews.com/?p=3108)