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SDSU: Watch out for wet hay

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BROOKINGS — Wet conditions call for careful management to preserve hay quality, said Tracey Erickson, SDSU Extension dairy field specialist.

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“Current high moisture conditions due to rain and flooding in portions of South Dakota can hamper forage harvest and storage and result in losses through heating and/or mold growth,” Erickson said.

Quality hay is one of the key components of a highly palatable and digestible diet for ruminants, Erickson explains, but improper handling can result in storage and feeding losses that reduce quality and result in costly waste.

Rain that penetrates uncovered bales left in the field leads to substantial deterioration and loss of feed value. Storage losses can represent easily 15 percent or more of the dry matter when bales are left uncovered and exposed to rain, Erickson said. Research has shown that differences between covered and uncovered large round bales can be almost 30 percentage points with total losses (storage plus feeding) of uncovered bales being close to 45 percent of the dry matter.

“The value of these losses can be sizeable for average dairy producers, who may harvest enough hay to feed 1,500 pounds daily for every 100 cows,” Garcia said.

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