By Rick Kersbergen, Extension Educator, University of Maine, firstname.lastname@example.org
This summer has been a major challenge for hay producers in the Northeast. Trying to cobble together 3 or 4 days of dry weather has been nearly impossible! With some farms still doing first cut and others doing second, here are some tips.
Keep a watchful eye on you hay bales after baling. If heating starts to occur, be prepared to take action, especially if the hay is stored in a barn. Use a compost thermometer as a monitoring tool, as it allows you to get to the inside of the bale to take a temperature reading. Bale temperatures should stay as close to ambient temperature as possible, and not exceed 125 degrees F.
If temperatures start to exceed 125 degrees F and climb to nearly 150 degrees F, be prepared to take action. Examine and check the bales twice daily, and consider moving the bales out of the barn or stack to allow more air flow around heated bales. Once the temperatures reach 160 degrees F or higher, spontaneous combustion is possible and the hay bales should be moved and opened up to allow for cooling. If temperatures reach 175 to 190 degrees F you have reached a critical temperature where moving bales and exposing them to fresh air could cause the bales to combust. If your bales reach this temperature, you should call the fire department before you begin to move bales out of the barn as they may combust on exposure to fresh air.
(Temperature recommendations taken from PA Field Crop News, 7/30/13, M. Hall)
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