Feeding Moldy Hay
No matter how great we are at putting up hay, we’ve probably fed hay that was moldy. Some has more some has less. But how do we know what’s safe to feed?
Feeding any moldy hay is a risk, but that risk level will change depending on the amount of mold. Any bale of hay can have mold, but the ones with noticeable mold need to be paid special attention.
Most times, mold will make the hay much less desirable and palatable to livestock. This can cause refusal or decreased intake. The real concern with mold is the mycotoxins that are created by some fungal molds. Some are more toxic than others and are extremely difficult to identify.
Some of the effects of feeding moldy hay include calf abortions. Mycotoxins can be found in hay as well as silage and distiller’s grains. Respiratory problems can also be seen. Horses are much more susceptible to mold effects than other livestock. Not only can livestock be affected, but us humans can too. Farmer’s lung is a condition where mold spores enter the lungs causing allergic reactions that can become chronic.
If we have moldy hay we have to use, try to reduce the risk when fed. Feed the hay to less susceptible animals such as steers and open cows. Take special care with horses. Diluting the moldy hay by feeding good hay is also an option. Grinding can be an option, but can eliminate the animal’s natural ability to refuse eating bad hay. Don’t just grind the moldy hay to make animals eat it. Only grind to help dilute with good hay. For bales of particular concern, roll out the bale and let animals pick out the good parts. Have additional feed available so hunger doesn’t lessen selectivity.
Mold is something to be aware of and manage. Reducing the risk by making sound sensible decisions will help keep you and your livestock safe.
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