RANCH MUSINGS: If I didn’t have some complaints, I wouldn’t be a rancher

This column tries to shed light on some aspects of ranching, while not being too technical

Of course my complaints are about the weather, what else? Casual conversations with people shows me that there is real sympathy in the public for the challenges this year in getting feed preserved for the Canadian winter.

This column tries to shed light on some aspects of the ranching industry, while not being too technical. Today I am being a little technical.

My topic here tries to explain a challenge when the weather is not just hot and dry enough for extended periods enabling easier hay harvesting.

Simply put, if the hay is not 20 per cent or less in its moisture content then it can overheat. The respiration process continues and mould can develop. This is not good for the livestock.

If heating hay is tightly packed in a barn , then internal heat in the hay can create internal (spontaneous) combustion.

In a worst case this heat can cause fire and the barn burns down.

Farmers and ranchers are really forced to bale hay a little “green” or moist because the threat of rain results in a decision to get it up as quickly as possible. That is the lesser of two evils. Rain on almost dry hay causes spoiling.

A little spoilage in the curing process still makes for better feed than if you let it get rained on. This gets kind of technical.

Hay can heat to about 120F (49C) with no serious forage quality loss.

Read More: RANCH MUSINGS: No till pasture rejuvenation and silvopasture trials: up-coming event

If it heats to 121-140F (50-60C) the hay will be less digestible, and be brown in colour with a tobacco smell.

Should the temperature reach 141-160F (61-71C) one should check daily since the chemical reactions can escalate rapidly.

If the hay reaches over 175F (80C), fire might break out. If it is in a barn the danger of losing the barn is real.

My source says that if the temperature is 195F (90.5C) or hotter then moving the bales without a fire truck standing by is not wise since spontaneous combustion can occur.

Under normal conditions a bale will reach no higher than 130F (54C) The internal bale temperature should peak three to seven days after it was baled.

David Zirnhelt is a rancher and member of the Cariboo Cattlemen’s Association. He is also chair of the Advisory Committee for the Applied Sustainable Ranching Program at TRU.

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