Wet hay is not only in danger of losing its nutritional value; it’s also at risk of spontaneous combustion. Working hard with your tractor and hay handling attachments, only to have the final product randomly burst into flames, creates not only a loss of forage but possibly property damage and even bodily injury. The thing is, hay is a natural product that grows in fields and often gets wet from rain or irrigation systems. Given the nature of the crop, there’s always a chance you’ll be working with it when it’s wet.

What Makes Wet Hay a Fire Danger

It seems counterintuitive that water could increase the likelihood that an otherwise dried out plant would burn. Have you ever gone to turn over the compost pile and found lots of heat coming off it? That’s what happens when microorganisms go to work breaking down organic matter. The same thing can happen inside your bales. When the hay is too wet, it creates an ideal location for bacteria to grow and thrive. All the bacterial activity contributes to increased heat inside the bale. If the hay were completely dry, this type of organism would have trouble getting a foothold, so it wouldn’t expand and grow and heat up the hay. However, when hay is wet, it’s prime real estate for mold and other unwanted growth.

How To Make Hay With Low Internal Moisture

You should always check the moisture level when baling hay, especially before you put it in a shed or barn. You can also try to time your work so that you’ll have a few days of sunny weather for the windrows to dry thoroughly before baling. Form your bales early in the day after the dew has evaporated, but before the hay gets too hot. Once you’re ready to move the bales into storage, be sure they’re dry enough inside and leave some breathing room between stacks.

How To Deal With Wet Hay

Sometimes there’s no way to avoid dealing with wet hay. For example, if your windrows got rained on, they’ll be soaked, but you need to move them. Leaving damp hay in the field can lead to the underlying plants becoming moldy and full of weeds. If it looks like your crop may not be usable as forage because of sitting wet for so long, it’s best to cut your losses and get it out of the field before it causes more problems. You can still use it as mulch elsewhere, especially if you cut it into short pieces. First, use a tractor landscape rake to get all the wet hay out of the field. Then you can decide how much of it is a total loss and how much you can repurpose elsewhere.


Whatever you need for your hay-making enterprise can be purchased online. For example, you can find high-quality hay spears for sale that will make it easy to move finished bales when it’s time to sell them or to feed your livestock. Research your options and have everything you need delivered directly to your property.