Review your hay fire insurance coverage before your growing season gets too busy, advises University of Idaho Extension forage specialist Glenn Shewmaker.

Some insurance companies place tonnage limits on how much hay a grower can place in a stack or shed at one time. Others might have a value limit for the stack. “You want to make sure you comply,” he says. “In the event you do have a fire, all you’re going to get paid for is what’s specified in the policy.”

A grower should also keep a detailed journal of weather, drying conditions and moisture averages and ranges at key points during harvest – cutting, raking, tedding, inversion and baling. “From a legal standpoint, having good records will offer you some liability protection,” he says.

He notes a 2008 California court case, Nationwide Insurance vs. Delta Farms, in which an insurance company sued a grower after a hay fire at a dairy. The grower was able to furnish journal records showing that the hay, packaged in large square bales, had a safe moisture level – 10.9% – when it was delivered.

Last July, a jury cleared the grower of liability.

“If the grower hadn’t kept those good records, who knows how the case might have turned out?” Shewmaker says.

For his tips on preventing hay fires when making large square bales, check our May 7 issue of eHay Weekly.