Bale Moisture - Frequently Asked Questions

 
 
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 At what moisture level is hay or greenfeed dry and ready to bale?
The appropriate moisture level will depend on the type of baler you use. If you have a large hard-core round baler, 15% moisture is optimum. At this moisture level, the bales will keep for an extended period of time. See the chart below for other bale size- moisture contents.

Bale Shape
Height, ft
Width, ft
Length, ft
Volume, ft3
Typical weight, lb
Safe baling moisture, %
Rectangular
1.2
1.5
3.2
5.5
60
18-20*
Rectangular
2.7
3
7
56
900
12-16*
Rectangular
4
4
8
112
1800
12-16*
Round
4
--
4
50
500
15-18*
Round
4
--
5
63
850
15-18*
Round
5
--
4
79
1000
15-18*
Round
5
--
5
98
1300
15
Round
6
--
5
141
1900
15
*The lower moisture range is preferred in areas of low humidity; the higher moisture % for other areas
Source: Adapted from an article presented at the Alfalfa Intensive Training Seminar, National Alfalfa Alliance, Salt Lake City, Utah, March 2-4, 2004, Dr. Mike Collins, University of Kentucky

What will happen if I bale my feed at higher moisture levels?
When moisture levels are higher than those shown in the above chart, the bales will lose large amounts of dry matter caused by excessive heating and mould growth. Moulds will consume nutrients and as they grow they generate heat. If the hay reaches 55 C or higher, severe browning reactions begin. Amino acids and sugars combine to form insoluble nitrogen compounds that are unavailable to animals. These reactions are undesirable because they increase the amount of insoluble fibre that leads to a lower digestibility or TDN. In addition, these reactions may lead to spontaneous combustion (for more information see the ‘Heated Bales: Management and Handling’ FAQ).

Mould organisms under heat stress may produce toxins, these toxins can be harmful to livestock and may reduce intake. As well, moulds produce spores that if inhaled can cause lung disease or exacerbate existing respiratory problems.

Do all bales heat?
Heating in bales will occur to some extent unless the forage contains less than 15% moisture.

For more information:
Moisture Content of Hay When Baling
What is the right moisture level to make hay

Or contact the Alberta Ag-Info Centre at 310-FARM (3276)

Prepared by Juanita Kopp, Alberta Ag-Info Centre, Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development

 
 
 
 
For more information about the content of this document, contact the Ag-Info Centre.
This information published to the web on June 1, 2005.
Last Reviewed/Revised on April 30, 2015.