Bryant Dorn remembers the days when he baled hay until dawn. Excess moisture in recent years put a stop to the Montana farmer’s all-nighters.
With dairy and cattle producers across the country counting on his family’s farm to provide them with quality forage, Dorn was determined to find a way to extend the baling window. In 2018, his family began applying a preserving product as they square baled more than 3,500 acres of alfalfa.
“We use this as insurance. It preserves the quality, prevents rot and lets us push the moisture limit,” he said of the hay preservative. “If it saves a couple bales, it pays for itself.”
The product is designed to reduce risk of heating and spoilage, allowing producers to bale higher moisture hay.
Quality matters. Depending on the year and the markets, the family’s hay business accounts for a large portion of the farm’s overall income. In addition to raising commercial alfalfa, Dorn, his dad and brother also raise cattle, sugar beets, corn and barley near Hardin, Montana.
“Before, we would always have a lumpy, mold spot in at least a few bales. Now, we don’t see rot in our bales,” Dorn said. “Because it’s granular, we don’t worry about it rusting our balers.”
Hay baled at higher moisture levels reduces the risk of leaf loss. In alfalfa, the leaves contain 70% of the plant’s protein and 90% of its vitamins. A long-term hay trial in Minnesota showed bales treated with a hay preservative from Agnition, cured faster and maintained relative feed value 30 points higher than control.
Prevent spoilage in high moisture hay
Several moisture-related factors impact hay quality. This hay preservative mitigates these factors through two modes of action: organic acid and microbial technology plus inoculant. They reduced temperatures in higher moisture hay by rapidly decreasing pH levels. This limits growth of mold, yeast and other harmful bacteria. They also cut cure time to help bales cool off faster. Another benefit is decreasing dry matter loss and producing higher-quality bales with less sagging.
Being able to bale in higher moisture conditions, while at the same time preserving hay quality are the reasons Todd Mangin began using the hay preservative in 2015.
“Every time it gets rained on, hay loses feed value and quality. This year a lot of neighbors were fighting mold in hay. I didn’t have a problem,” said the Gettysburg, South Dakota cow-calf producer. “I also notice a difference in hay quality. The hay is just green. You don’t get those tobacco spots in the alfalfa. And the cows are more apt to clean it up.”
The product can also be used when baling corn stalks. In addition to alfalfa, last summer Mangin also applied the product while baling millet. He was waiting for it to dry down when five days of rain were forecast.
“It was a case where we either bale it or we were not going to get it,” he said.
Mangin baled it at 20-30% moisture.
“It maintained its quality. Also, it doesn’t heat up in bales or a pile,” he said.