Photo: Auburn University

While areas of the U.S. are still in the depths of winter’s cold and snow, some Southeast states are being deluged with rain. As a result, flooding and extensive water ponding are commonplace.

Wet fields and pastures always make it difficult to feed and care for livestock. But when rain falls to the extent that it has in some areas of the Southeast, round bales being stored in low-lying areas can be subject to sitting in a foot or more of standing water for an extended period.

Leanne Dillard, extension forage specialist with the Auburn University, recently offered the following observations and recommendations for producers who have hay bales damaged by standing water or excessive rainfall:

Document your losses

1. Document all losses of hay as soon as it is safe to do so.

2. Take photos of bales or the place where bales were stored prior to the storm.

3. Write down the number of bales, type and quality of the hay, and the estimated weight or size.

4. Contact the Farm Service Agency (FSA) office and visit them with this information as soon as possible.

Feeding water-damaged hay

1. Even if hay is not submerged in water, heavy rains will likely lower the quality of hay stored outside or on the ground.

2. Hay that is submerged by as little as 1 foot has little usable forage remaining.

3. The amount of rotted hay, mold, and possible contaminants in flooded hay make it of little value and potentially a hazard to livestock.

4. Hay that has less than 1 foot of submersion may still have some useable forage but feed it with caution and only to cattle.

5. For hay submerged less than 1 foot, feed the dry hay, but do not force the cattle to consume the wet and rotting portion of the bale.

6. Remove hay that was flooded inside storage barns as soon as possible. This hay will begin to heat, and spontaneous combustion is a possibility

7. Dispose of hay that is not fit for livestock by burning or composting.