How to avoid rain damage on hay
La Nina conditions
Currently in Australia La Nina is in full swing. Across many states we are experiencing heavy rainfall and stormy weather. Increased rainfall and cloud in the western Pacific is meaning there is an above average spring rainfall, particularly in the east and north. La Nina occurs every 8 years, in history the 6 wettest winter-spring periods on record for Eastern Australia were in La Nina years. The impact of La Nina continues into the warmer months resulting in an increase of 20% in December-March average rainfall in Eastern Australia. To find out more about La Nina and how it could affect your farming click here.
Rain damage on hay
With the wet weather it is more important than ever to ensure farmers store their hay correctly to avoid rain damage. Hay that has been rained on looses considerable quality as every farmer knows. There are four different ways in which cut hay is degraded once it has been rained on. These are explained below.
- leaching of carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals: This occurs badly if the hay has been partly dried and then rained on. Rainfall directly after cutting does not result in drastic leaching of nutrients but an extended amount of perspiration will leach the hay of quality and yield.
- Increased and prolonged plant respiration: Longer periods of rain, similar to what we are currently experiencing means that the hay will respire for a longer period of time resulting in loss of forage nutrients and dry matter yield.
- Leaf shattering: After hay gets wet there is usually more mechanical handling of it in order for it to dry. Since leaves dry faster than stems there is an increased risk of the leaves shattering from their stems. There are more soluble nutrients in the leaf tissue than in the stem, therefore the loss of leaf blades through raking and baling can reduce hay quality substantially.
- Microbial breakdown of plant tissue: This occurs after fungi and moulds start feeding on the downed hay. They rapidly develop in warm, moist conditions and feed on the dead plant material. The microorganisms can quickly consume plant nutrients and destroy all plant cell structure that over time completely rots the hay.
Storing your own hay is convenient and economical if done correctly. Keeping hay undercover, correctly stored maximises the quality and quantity of good hay out of your crop. To find out more about storing your hay correctly click here.
Investing in a hay shed can bring return very quickly especially in this wet weather and is an even more favourable option at the moment due to government taxation incentives for farmers. Low interest loans are available through the Regional Investment Corporation from the Federal Government to assist farmers in financial need. Initiatives such as instant asset write off up to $150,000 and fodder storage deductions has been extended for agribusinesses as part of the 2020 Budget. Find out more about the government tax deductions here.