Salvaging Rain-Damaged Alfalfa through Fermentation

The summer rains of 2014 were causing significant difficulties for Tom and Matt Wood who farm their own property and run a customer farming operation in and around Rexburg, ID. Tom had repeatedly told Ken of Bio Minerals Technologies that the constant rains were stopping the drying and baling of many fields of cut and now molding alfalfa. With the ongoing rains and the mold growth, the crop was all but ruined and they were out of options. Ken suggested that Tom try the Fermentation Anaerobic Culture on part of a damaged field so he could see for himself how it would work. Tom was skeptical but he finally agreed to take 275 gallons of culture and give it a try. Tom was out of options and there was more and more rain in sight. Since the windrows of hay already had mold growing on the underneath side we recommended he use one gallon of culture per ton bale (square).

Moldy and wet, treated with Fermentation Culture
and baled at over 40% moisture.

The hay was baled August 15th, ( Friday ) and it was baled up wet (well over 40% moisture) and moldy. Ken told Tom he could expect the temperature inside the bales to climb until the culture’s beneficial microorganisms had time to take over the interior environment and kill the pathogens (the mold and other toxins). The heat inside the hottest bale peaked Monday the 18th at 151 degrees (the highest temperature we had previously seen was 139 degrees on another farm in Utah, but it was not spoiling either). Tom was very worried that the hay would keep heating and eventually catch on fire. Tuesday morning Tom called and said the temperatures were falling in all the bales and the hottest bale was now 119 degrees.  This is what Tom wrote Ken about the hay in the pictured stack.

The hay took around 1.5" of rain in three different storms, twice before it was raked, and one more soaker after it was raked. The hay was slimy on the bottom of the windrow, and the mold was everywhere. The regrowth was around a foot tall when I finally baled it. I sprayed approx 1 gal of culture per/bale on top of the windrows with my 4 wheeler set up you looked at. Moisture was all well over 40%.”

Ken stopped at Toms place on August 28th on his way to Montana and took pictures of this stack of fermenting hay. As you can see the moisture is still above 45% as that is the limit on the probe. The temperature was at 79 degrees and the stack had a pleasant fermentation smell.

Tom continued to bale up additional alfalfa on several farms last fall with the culture; some were wet from the rain, others were just high moisture. Our standard rate had been 1 quart of culture per ton of alfalfa on clean high moisture cuttings. That has been working but we are now seeing that the higher application rates produce even better results, as shown in the Mycotoxin Analyses reports shown below.

Phil New 3rd #62: Control Stack - Baled up dry and green, no rain, no culture, 13-14% moisture as one would normally do. Of the 3 Mycotoxin Analyses it has the highest reading.

Phil Baker 3rd #15 was baled a little wet with approximately 1 quart of culture; it is lower in Mycotoxins than Phil New 3rd #62.

Adam 2nd #47 is the very wet, moldy, alfalfa pictured in the haystack in Toms yard. It is the cleanest product of all.

Toxin Recommended Max Test Result - Phil New #62 Test Result - Phil Baker #15 Test Result - Adam #47
(ZEN, ZEA, RAL, F-2 Toxin)
25 ppm 0.6 ppm 0.15 ppm 0.9 ppm
Aflatoxin B1
20 ppb 7 ppb 4 ppb ND
Aflatoxin B2
(AFB2, Dihydroaflatoxin B1)
20 ppb 8.5 ppb 3 ppb 2 ppb
Aflatoxin G1
20 ppb 54 ppb 25 ppb ND
Aflatoxin G2
n/a ND ND ND

What does this show? It shows that we can ferment very high-moisture forages, preserve them, even stop them from further spoilage and turn them around into safe feed. We have updated our recommended application rate of Fermentation Anaerobic Culture to one gallon per ton of baled high moisture forage. In addition, we are now micronizing minerals and adding the minerals in with the culture solution for fermentation in these forages. This will certainly add a new component of nutrition into the feed. Best of all, cattle love this feed. They will eat fermented forage over other feeds every time when given the choice.

As the bales dry out over time and more air gets into the bales the beneficial lactic acid producing biology switches from an anaerobe to an aerobe (still highly beneficial) and produces yeasts. The yeasts are nutritious, and are not toxic. They look white and gray but are not molds. Even though the yeasts are nutritious, it is still better to stop the dehydration of the bales and continue the fermentation cycle which prolongs the breakdown of the fibers and increases conversion and nutrient uptake by the animals. Wrapping the bales with plastic or bagging the materials in long plastic bags works well to maintain the moisture and preserve the fermentation environment.

Are you interested in fermenting your forages? Learn more here, or contact us directly.

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