Preserving High Quality Baled Hay

Posted: May 11, 2021 | Written By: Lisa Wuertz, Form-A-Feed

baled hay

Harvesting quality forages is vital to the profitability and production of your livestock enterprise.   Even under good weather conditions, harvesting and storing high quality feeds can be a challenge.  Preservatives can help you harvest better forage, reducing nutrient loss in your feeds once you’ve placed them into storage.  They work by inhibiting or reducing the growth of mold spores and subsequent heating. Without microbial growth, heating and nutrient degradation does not occur.  As critical nutrient availability decreases, so does the value of the feed.

The optimal moisture level for baling hay is 13% to 17%.  Bale size and type will have an impact on optimal moisture.  Untreated hay harvested above 18% actual moisture will heat, mold, and lose feed value and palatability.  Hay harvested below 14% moisture will be brittle, have leaf shatter, and high dry matter losses.   The window for optimum baling is very narrow and hard to hit without the advantage of a preservative.

Preservatives, like Crop Cure, increase the levels of acetic acid, reducing the chances of the hay molding significantly.  This saves valuable nutrients from being destroyed.  Research has shown that use of Crop Cure can increase the amount of protein available for digestion by up to 10% and can reduce dry matter losses by as much as 50%.  This provides you with more feed and more milk yield per acre.

Advantages of using hay preservatives

  • Crop Cure will allow hay to be baled at a higher moisture content, which reduces the length of time hay lays in the field and lowers the risk of rain damage.
  • Baling at a higher moisture content reduces dry matter and nutrient losses during baling caused by leaf shatter.
  • Crop Cure lengthens the potential baling period. Hay can be baled during early morning and late evening hours if dew does not raise moisture level above 25%.
  • Crop Cure reduces the amount of dry matter losses and can increase the amount of nutrients, like protein and carbohydrates, that are available for digestion.
  • Crop Cure is effective under a wide range of moisture conditions.
  • Crop Cure, does not require special storage, has guaranteed potency, and an unlimited shelf life.

 Crop Cure advantages

  • Registered with the EPA as a mold inhibitor.
  • Works on baled hay as high as 22% moisture.
  • Reduces dry matter losses by 8—15% and saves more valuable nutrients.
  • Crop Cure treated hay stays cooler and fresher.

Crop Cure research








Baled hay treatment comparison

Application rates for Crop Cure 2

Mixing directions:

  • Mix 50 lbs of Crop Cure 2 with 25 gallons of water

Dry baled hay:

  • Rate is 1 gallon to 1 1/2 gallons per ton, which is 9.22 to 14.0 lbs. per ton.
  • Works on hay up to 22% moisture.


  • Crop Cure 2 works great on controlling mold growth.
  • Application rate is 1/4 gallon to 1/2 gallon per ton, which is 2.3 lbs. to 4.6 lbs. per ton.


Follow these tips for making high quality baled hay.

  • Reduce time hay lays in the field to improve quality. Fast drying of hay in the field is the goal. The obvious benefit is to get the hay successfully made and under cover before the next rain. Fast drying also minimizes respiration losses, microbial growth in the windrow, and maximizes sugars, green color, and palatability.
  • Adjust swath width. Leaving the swath as wide as practical takes the maximum advantage of the drying effects of the sun and wind.  Narrow swaths take longer to dry. Humidity inside a tight, narrow swath is very high and not conducive to fast drying.   Most haybines & discbines have an easy swath width adjustment.   Consider setting tractor tires as wide as possible to avoid driving on a wide swath.
  • Proper conditioning. Proper maintenance of both roll and flail conditioners is important to ensure adequate conditioning, without over-conditioning.   Check your owner’s manual. Rubber rolls wear with use and eventually under-condition if not adjusted.   In a recent study, more than half of the conditioners exceeded the maximum roll clearance spacing required for adequate conditioning.
  • Proper & timely storage. Getting hay stored properly is often a weak link in hay production.   Large squares absorb moisture from the ground, so bales should come off the field the same day they were made.   Bales should be stored under cover and off the ground.  Wooden pallets should be used.
  • Ventilation. Ventilation is important while bales lose their moisture to a safe level, so stacked large square should be stored with space between. It is best to stack on the bale edge to allow the moisture to escape.  Stacking the bales on the strings, can block and trap moisture in the bales creating mold and at times a scum layer.
  • Avoid sun bleaching. If you plan to sell hay, bales should be green on all sides, so avoid sun bleaching. Green hay typically sells better than discolored or bleached hay.


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