By Alvaro Garcia and Fernando Diaz
Plants allowed to continue their growth cycle beyond their reproductive stage have lower nutritive value as a feed. Haying aims to reduce the quality losses due to maturity while maintaining the nutrient content the plants had at harvest time. Once in the swath the harvested forage dries at variable rates, depending on factors such as its initial moisture content, swath thickness, solar radiation, ambient moisture and air circulation.
Although moderate heating (70°F to 110°F) is practically unavoidable, when excessive, it can result in heat damage and potentially become a fire hazard. Three conditions — combustible material, heat production and oxygen infiltration — are necessary for this to happen.
Moisture content critical
Stored forages with high sugar content usually have higher nutritive values. At the same time, they could be at a greater risk of rising temperatures once exposed to air with poor harvesting and storage practices. As long as there is water activity, plant cells in the swath continue to breathe and perform chemical reactions. Energy for these reactions is obtained by oxidizing sugars which leads to heat buildup.
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