Hay warning

By Benalla Ensign

With Farmers in the Benalla area and across the state cutting more hay to recover costs from a below-average growing season, CFA is reminding landowners to take additional care when cutting, baling and storing hay this year.

CFA operations officer Peter Dedman said correct storage was important along with monitoring stacks for heat in terms of preventing hay fires.

Spontaneous combustion can occur when bacteria grows within green or damp hay producing a chemical reaction that causes the hay bale to heat.

‘‘If your hay is green or not fully cured at the time of baling, you could be setting yourself up for trouble right from the word go,’’ Mr Dedman said.

‘‘When it comes to storage there are a number of things you can do.

‘‘Protect your hay stacks from water leaks, rain and moisture, but also pay attention to airflow by not stacking bales right to the top of the shed.’’

He also advised farmers to store hay in separate stacks and keep them smaller rather than larger in size.

‘‘That way you’ll avoid large losses if a fire does occur,’’ he said. ‘‘By the same token you should avoid storing vehicles, machinery and valuable equipment in your shed along with the hay bales.

‘‘And of course continuous monitoring for heat is a good habit to get into, especially in event of a thunderstorm or rain showers.

‘‘My advice would be to use a range of ways to detect heat rather than just a probe.

‘‘Using a probe can be a bit hit and miss, look out for other signs, such as steam rising from stack, mould or unusual odour or slumping of the bales.

‘‘Remember it only takes one bale in a stack to heat up and burn and you could lose the lot.’’

Tips for preventing hay fires or unnecessary losses:

●Allow for airflow by not stacking hay right up against the roof of sheds.

●Store hay in multiple locations or stacks to avoid large losses if a fire occurs.

●Never carry out work, such as welding or grinding, near haystacks.

●Maintain a break around stacks.

●Monitor stacks regularly and separate if overheating.