26 March 2021

Haymaking: processes and risks

The world of animal husbandry is paying more and more attention to every aspect of the life of the animals being raised. In particular, to keep cows healthy and at high levels of productivity it is essential to control their nutrition.

Quality in the fodder production process

It is necessary, therefore, to ensure the quality of fodder, not only by checking the raw material – i.e. selecting species that are more productive in terms of quality and quantity – but also by making sure processing and storage are more efficient.    

Once the green plant has been harvested, given its high water content, it must be properly treated to avoid rapid deterioration. In order to produce stable fodder that retains all its original nutritional qualities, it must be processed quickly.

What is haymaking?

It is the practice, also known as dry storage, of removing water from the plant tissues to a moisture content of between 12% and 15%.

The different types of haymaking include: traditional haymaking (where the hay is left to dry in the field without ever being moved) and two-stage haymaking (a process that involves a pre-wilting phase in the field and then a subsequent drying phase in the barn).

Risks of hay fermentation

When compacting the fodder, fermentation losses occur because there is less gas exchange in the compressed mass of the product. This results in the proliferation of moulds and micro-organisms that degrade protein and carbohydrate structures. This leads to a ‘heated’ hay where sugars and amino acids react with each other to form compounds that cannot be digested by the animals.

Depending on the storage technique chosen, there will be different fermentation losses; specifically between 10-15% for traditional haymaking, which can be as high as 30% if the forage has a high moisture content, and between 3-10% for two-stage haymaking.

Furthermore, if not properly controlled, hay fermentation – particularly for certain types of plants and when the stored product is too wet – can lead to episodes of spontaneous combustion.

Having an efficient, quality structure and applying some care when storing hay is therefore an important factor in controlling the haymaking process.

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