3 Things You Need To Know About Using Moldy Hay

Friday, May 27th, 2016

Whenever there is a wet summer, pastures grow at extraordinary rates and ranchers have more than enough hay. Although rain brings a good crop, it also brings increasing amounts of mold. The more that grass is rained on, the more likely mold is to appear.

You may wonder what to do with moldy hay and whether or not you can safely feed it to your livestock. It is important to understand how hay becomes moldy and how airborne mold spores affect your animals. You should also know how mold hay affects humans and how to use moldy hay properly.

How does hay become moldy?

Unfortunately, some mold will always get into your hay. The issue is when the mold is easily noticeable. When you are able to see the mold, there is a large amount in the food. Mold develops in warm, wet environments. When grass is rained on during a humid summer, it creates the perfect conditions for mold to develop. The degree of danger the moldy hay can cause depends upon the type of mold and the animal that is ingesting it.

How airborne mold spores affect your animals

Certain molds release mycotoxins, which are airborne spores that adversely affect animal and human health. It is incredibly difficult to accurately predict how mycotoxins may affect your ranch, because they are so varied. Mycotoxins can weaken the immune system and cause allergies, and other health problems. Mycotoxins generally decrease the performance of farm animals, reduce milk yields in dairy cows, and can cause miscarriage in breeding cows. The problem with tracking these toxins is that not all molds emit. Those that do release the toxins do so at unpredictable rates.

Cows can eat just about any kind of mold. If the mold is too prevalent, however, cows will refuse to ingest their food. Mycotoxins have been known to cause miscarriages and aspergillosis, so it is recommended that you avoid feeding any moldy hay to pregnant and other sensitive cows. Unlike cows, horses are very susceptible to the effects of moldy hay. Ingesting this food can cause digestive and respiratory problems like colic or heaves. If possible, avoid feeding moldy hay to your horses.

Health effects on humans

Moldy hay and mycotoxins do cause health problems for humans. Mycotoxins cause both skin and respiratory irritation and if the spores get into your lungs, they can attach themselves and grow. Although the mold spores will only be an irritation at first, they can become a chronic issue if not properly addressed. If you handle moldy hay, make sure you wear proper safety gear, especially a mask.

How to use moldy hay

Feeding moldy hay to your livestock is a personal choice based upon your needs and the needs of your ranch. If the food is too moldy, your animals will most likely ignore it. However, horses have a more delicate constitution and may become very sick if they ingest the grass. If you have a limited amount of food, then you will probably have to feed your livestock moldy hay. However, if you have large stockpiles, you might be able to cut out most of the moldy hay.

If you would like to learn more about moldy hay, livestock safety, and livestock feed, contact SB Hay & Feed in Amarillo, Texas. Call us today at (800) 652-3036 or Contact Us by email for more information. We will be happy to answer your questions and help direct you to the right products for your animals. You can also see the hay we have available to buy or sell your own!