January 27, 2017 - Management Tips for Feeding Moldy Hay



Friday, January 27, 2017 - With the abundant rain in 2016, last year’s hay crop has had a little more mold growth than usual. Here are some management concerns to address after opening that bale pile and discovering some spoilage.

  • Hay that is baled too wet can have mold throughout the bale, while bales that have been exposed to moisture after being stacked may have mold on the outside layers.
  • Often the dark, almost black dust associated with the mold is the biggest health issue. Inhaling the dust, mold and spores should be minimized, especially when feeding to horses and freshly weaned calves.
  • Hay baled when slightly wet can also go through a heating process. When the internal temperature of a bale stays in the 125ºF to 150ºF range, mold spoilage typically results. Heat damage occurs if the bale temperature exceeds 150ºF. When this occurs, protein and carbohydrates in the hay begin to react to the high temperatures, going through a browning process.
  • Testing for molds in forages is quite difficult. In general, look for visual cues to determine severity. White, gray and black molds are typical. Large mold problems that have unusual mold colors are more cause for concern as they may potentially produce mycotoxins.
  • If possible, feed the hay in a well-ventilated area. Control dust by mixing hay with wet feeds such as silages, beet pulp, wet distillers' grains or even liquid feed supplements.
  • Diluting the moldy hay with other forages will reduce exposure. This will improve the overall safety of feeding moldy forages. Because of the reduced quality and unavailable nutrients in heat-damaged hay, make sure animals are supplemented with higher quality forages or grains.
  • Cattle have rumen microbes that destroy a high number of mycotoxins associated with molds, while horses and swine are more susceptible to mold problems. Pregnant and lactating animals are at a higher risk than feeder cattle and non-pregnant animals. Some indicators that mold levels are too high include dramatically reduced intake and pneumonia-like respiratory issues such as hacking or coughing.

ABC COMMENT: Reports from the field indicate that animals fed moldy hay will frequently take more I-Mix (Iodine) from the ABC free choice mineral system.  If you must feed moldy hay, make sure your mineral program is the best available.  Learn more about our Free Choice Mineral system here.

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