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Why did my hay mold???

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  • Why did my hay mold???

    I have 250 bales of mixed grass hay that I picked up out of the field a little over a month ago. I was stacked in a large building with a new roof, concrete floor, hay on pallets, two small windows and a large garage door for air circulation. It seemed dry when we picked it up, hay grower does not use a moisture meter. It did not get wet after baling. I have stored hay in this building for years without mold issues excepting some of the bottom row, the bottoms of those bales sometimes molded. What happened?? The griwer will replace it but I need to figure out why this happened. Grower is certain hay was dry.


  • #2
    Can't be certain it's dry without testing it really...


    • #3
      Hay will pull damp up from a concrete floor, even if bales are dry when you put them in the barn. Tight stacking will prevent better air circulation, which might help move any damp out of piled up bales.

      Did you notice any "heavier" bales while moving the hay? That is often a sign of wet hay in a particular bale. Wet could have been a thicker growth area that didn't dry as fast as the rest of the field. We set those heavier bales to one side, feed first or if moldy, return for good hay.

      We put a wood layer over our cement floor, so no bales were near the cement. Has greatly reduced or removed any mold problems, depending on the year. Pallets in all configurations, stacked, with plastic over them, did not solve the mold problem. The plywood layer over all cement floor, with 1" batten boards underneath, did. The one front barn wall facing west, metal, will sometimes get some mold on the wall side of bale, with sun heat shining on wall, corrugation allowing damp to come up from the outside dirt. I try to feed that wall's hay first, to prevent losing any hay.

      Is there actually air moving in the storage area? Lots of openings, but without a "flow thru design" with prevailing wind, it may be dead air standing in there. Air has to come in, (get sucked in?) to then flow out well, changing what air is in the building for moisture removal. Incoming damp air, is no help in drying stuff.

      I am going to blame the cement floor for the mold problem, because cement almost always has some dampness in it to share with the stacked hay and straw.


      • #4
        In my (admittedly limited) experience, I have found if fairly recently made hay molds on the outside of the bale but you cut it open and its clean and fresh inside, the mold is a result of the environment where it was kept. If you cut open a bale and there is mold on the inside, then it was baled wet.

        I have found it is VERY hard to accurately judge the moisture of freshly baled hay without a moisture meter.

        My hay guy is really good and checks the moisture of his stacks several times a day for days on end. He prices the hay accordingly, good dry hay is for horses and priced accordingly, wet hay is for cows and generally only a fraction of the price of horse hay. He lets people know what is what when they arrive to load.

        Often times the "cow" hay is temptingly green and seems dry and the stacks cool, and sometimes the "horse" hay feels damp and warm. I have bought cow bales that I would swear up and down were dry and turned out to be damp inside, and I have bought horse bales that seemed warm and damp but cured up to perfection.

        It has taken me a couple of costly mistakes to finally learn to trust my hay guy and his meter over what the bales seem like.
        Being terrible at something is the first step to being truly great at it. Struggle is the evidence of progress.


        • #5
          Even hay stored on pallets will pull moisture off the concrete below, but it should only damage the bales on the bottom row. If you are finding mold on any bales from the second row on up it was obviously put up with too much moisture. If it was overly humid out when baled or your floor was sweating it makes things proceed much faster.


          • Original Poster

            Would the temperature changing from cool to warm affect it? I would think not since I have never had it affect it before just really scratching my head over this!



            • #7
              Originally posted by mpsbarnmanager View Post
              Would the temperature changing from cool to warm affect it? I would think not since I have never had it affect it before just really scratching my head over this!
              Sudden drastic changes from cold to hot causes condensation. My barn floor actually gets wets when this happens.


              • #8
                Originally posted by mpsbarnmanager View Post
                Would the temperature changing from cool to warm affect it? I would think not since I have never had it affect it before just really scratching my head over this!
                No. I keep bales for a year or more sometimes before I use them up finally. The only thing that should change about a bale (after it has been baled) is the outside color--it will fade.

                Are the bales musty/ dusty and discolored all the way through? Means hay was not dried long enough. Raked & baled with too much moisture.

                Or are there patches of hard discolored gray/ white parts in each bale? Wet plugs in the windrows before baling= raked too soon.

                In either case once you stack it in your barn it heats up pretty quickly and really gets things going. If you stick your hand between bales that are stacked now can you feel heat at all?


                • #9
                  Originally posted by trubandloki View Post
                  Sudden drastic changes from cold to hot causes condensation. My barn floor actually gets wets when this happens.
                  Mine too, but that would only matter to the bales stored directly over the concrete, not the whole 250.


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by candyappy View Post
                    Mine too, but that would only matter to the bales stored directly over the concrete, not the whole 250.
                    It greatly increases the humidity in the barn, which can increase the general mold in the barn.


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by trubandloki View Post
                      It greatly increases the humidity in the barn, which can increase the general mold in the barn.
                      True, but in my experience high humidity will only encourage mold in an already wet bale. Not one put up correctly.

                      OP-- How long did the bales sit out in the field after bailing, before you put them in your barn?? If the dew was heavy, the air very humid, ground damp at all, those bales would draw moisture if sitting in the field. We always loaded any bales immediately after baling just for that reason.


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by candyappy View Post
                        True, but in my experience high humidity will only encourage mold in an already wet bale. Not one put up correctly.

                        OP-- How long did the bales sit out in the field after bailing, before you put them in your barn?? If the dew was heavy, the air very humid, ground damp at all, those bales would draw moisture if sitting in the field. We always loaded any bales immediately after baling just for that reason.
                        I was always told properly baled hay may allow water to penetrate up to an inch but not more even if left out a rain, as long as it isn't a very heavy rain.

                        If there is mold in your hay, it was baled improperly.


                        • #13
                          Is there mold IN this hay or mold ON this hay?


                          • #14
                            OP, your hay sounds like mine. Early in the season, I bought a few tons of local orchard grass mix from a reputable grower. It looked great when I got it, it was put up dry and on pallets, but it ALL molded from the inside of the bales in a matter of weeks. (My grower was certain it was dry too and REFUSED to replace it)

                            The beginning half of our summer was so wet and humid. I think my hay was baled with a slightly high moisture content, but probably would have been fine if the weeks after baling had been hot and dry as usual. Instead, they were rainy and humid-- which may have slowed down the drying process. That's my theory anyway.

                            I have bought hay from 3 different suppliers already this year and have gotten moldy bales from all of them. It's going to be a long winter...
                            Don't fall for a girl who fell for a horse just to be number two in her world... ~EFO


                            • #15
                              This is the disadvantage of buying hay out of the field. It feels dry, it looks dry but it has just enough moisture to mold.

                              Big hay growers who deal in hay, barn store it for a month. So when it comes to you it is absolutely dry.

                              The other down side of almost but not quite dry hay is that it can burn down your barn, if barn stored.

                              Hay that is moldy in the center of the bale was not dry enough yet, no matter what the grower says.
                              Some riders change their horse, they change their saddle, they change their teacher; they never change themselves.

                              Remember the horse does all the work, we just sit there and look pretty.


                              • #16
                                I'm not sure where you are located, but I just wanted to mention: Here in the NY/PA area, it always took until November for me to find out the hay I bought out of the field in July or August had been baled too wet. It might have seemed fine when I bought it, but come November: mold. Your timetable matches the one I experienced.

                                We bale our own now and are much happier with the quality -- even in November.
                                What's Horsie in the Twin Tiers? Find out here:

                                Former user name: GilbertsCreeksideAcres


                                • #17
                                  I'm sorry you are having to deal with this. I had to learn this the hard way, too.

                                  Making good mold free hay is a process that includes the curing period. Good curing requires a good place, good environment and proper handling and stacking. The grower has no control over these factors, therefore it is understandable that they cannot guarantee what will happen after it leaves the field, any more than a breeder could guarantee how tall a 2 YO horse would end up after it left the farm.

                                  That's why the only way you know how hay will turn out is to buy it AFTER the curing period is complete. Or buy in a real dry climate AFTER it has been tested with a moisture prob. Set aside any real heavy bales when you pick it up. I learned to buy enough hay to last a couple months after hay cutting so I had time to shop around, get it tested for nutrients, THEN bring it home.
                                  Are you feeding your horse like a cow? www.safergrass.org


                                  • #18
                                    Did you stack it cut side up? My uncle was a fanatic about this. He had an ag degree from Cornell, so I guess he learned his haymaking particulars there. We rarely had any moldy hay.


                                    • #19
                                      Based on my experience as a hay producer of Orchard/Timothy for mostly my own use in SE PA I am reading some misconceptions here.
                                      Buying hay “out of the field” is usually the most economical. The producer has a lot less labor involved. But unless you know and or have done business with the producer it can be tricky. I would never buy hay out of the field from a producer who did not use and have available a moisture probe to randomly check bales before loading. Unless you are blessed and live in an area where high humidity is not a factor. IME the ideal moisture content should read between 12-18%. I have been able to get away with low 20s if the humidity is in the 30 to low 40s for a few days during the “dry down” period after being stacked.
                                      During the dry down hay baled with “ideal” moisture levels may increase to the low 20s after stacking when checked and settle into the low teens to single digits depending on location and storage. If the producer is using a preservative during baling I am told the moisture level during baling can be pushed to low 20’s.
                                      IME how it is stored after being baled and stacked has little impact on the resulting quality. Unless it is covered and in the sun with little to no air circulation. Or the storage area/building is in a damp place. But I am just guessing on this. If storing in a building with a concrete floor, sheet it with plastic and put pallets on top of it. Ideally if I were doing it I would build a raised floor framed out of 2X6 with 2’ spacing and cover it with wire fencing for really good air circulation. A bit more detail is involved.
                                      Bottom bales are always going to be a bit more problematic especially if baled on the high side of the moisture scale. But it will not or should not effect the majority of the stack even if the rest were baled on the high moisture side. Anyone that is experiencing a disproportion amount of bad bales through out their stack just means the hay was baled at too high a moisture content.
                                      I disagree with another’s comment saying that the hay producer has no control over what happens after the hay leaves the field. IME and in my neck of the woods the producer has everything to do with how the hay turns out before it even enters the baler. What pops out the other end will be what it will be by and large. A moisture probe never lies in the hands of a producer that knows how to “read it”. I know exactly what to expect and have very few surprises from the various sections and cuttings in my loft and I put up around 100+- tons a year.
                                      SmartAlex’s uncle is correct always stack hay out of a field on its side. The moisture has a better chance of “wicking out”. This shouldn’t be necessary when buying from a “reseller” unless they bought it and brought to your barn out of a field. But they should tell you this.
                                      Once hay has dried down a moisture probe won’t tell you if a bale is good or bad if it has been stored for a while. The damage will already be done. If it has only been a few weeks since being baled and the bales still read in the mid to high 20s+ you’re pretty much guaranteed they will be moldy. Weight is not always indicative of a bad bale. The weight can be set by the producer. But the odd bales that weigh considerably more are usually suspect if they come from the same cutting by the same producer. As mold develops and grows it adds weight.
                                      When I have hay to sell I guarantee it’s quality but also tell people to expect a “few” bad bales. Especially out of the field.
                                      This was a very tough year to make hay in the Mid-Atlantic from what I understand. In my area one of the worst in 10 years. I was able to bale less then 2/3 if that and I am not particularly proud of my “stash”. I suspect buyers are going to find more bad bales then usual. If I were going to sell my best it would be in the $400+ a ton area. Supply and demand


                                      • #20
                                        Bales from the field are still curing. I always leave the bales from my field on the wagon. It's under cover, but there's free space all around with lots of air flow. The hay under goes a "Sweat" for a week. If you were to insert temperature probes into the hay (I do) you'd see a rise, then a slow decrease. When the bale temp cools, then I barn the hay.

                                        So answer to your question. The hay molded because the air flow in your barn was too low. This year the weather being very wet didn't help either.
                                        Equus makus brokus but happy