How to Handle Moldy Hay this Winter

by Caitlyn Andrews November 03, 2015

How to Handle Moldy Hay in Winter

This year brought plenty of rainfall and poor harvesting conditions for those baling hay. When you go to feed your livestock this winter it's likely that you could run into some moldy hay. 

The good news is that most mold in your hay won't harm your livestock. Not all molds produce mycotoxins. Mycotoxins are chemicals produced by some species of molds that are toxic to animals. In most cases, if you can't readily see or smell the mold in your hay it won't harm your animals.

Risks of Feeding Moldy Hay

Horses are more likely to be affected by moldy hay. Consuming moldy hay can lead to respiratory and digestive problems such as heaves and colic.

Cattle and other ruminants aren't as sensitive to moldy hay. However, moldy hay can still cause issues such as aspergillosis and mycotic abortions in cattle. Ruminants are also susceptible to lowered fertility, reduction in feed intake, weakened immune system and even death from mycotoxin consumption.

How To Handle Moldy Hay

  1. Determine who your high and low-risk animals are:
    1. Animals at high risk: Horses, pregnant ruminants, livestock under stress.
    2. Animals at low risk: Mature male and mature open female ruminants.
  2. Do not feed moldy hay to high-risk animals if at all possible.
  3. Feed moldy hay to lower risk animals. Either allow the livestock to sort the hay themselves and reject moldy portions or remove and discard the mold dense portions by hand.
  4. Feed hay outside to minimize respiratory issues from dust. Feeding outside allows the hay rejected by the animals to be worked into the ground.
  5. Be sure to provide high-quality minerals and vitamins. This will ensure that livestock are still receiving the proper amount of nutrition in their diets if the hay is lacking. Livestock that are receiving correct nutrition will be able to withstand consuming moldy hay better than livestock that are malnourished.

Caitlyn Andrews
Caitlyn Andrews


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