At Achmea, we’re all about reducing risks to keep farmers farming. Achmea was established more than 200 years ago when 39 farmers put money into a glass jar, to be compensated in case one of them had a haystack fire. Together, these farmers worked hard to minimise their risks and their commitment to risk reduction remains alive and well at Achmea today.
We expect to see many hay sheds being filled in preparation for the seasons ahead. Spontaneous combustion is one of the leading causes of haystack fires. Now is a good time to review the dangers and prevent any losses. It only takes one bale in a shed to heat up and within minutes the entire shed can be alight.
As part of National Farm Safety Week, we are sharing seven strategies to help prevent haystack fires.
- Before baling, ensure hay is fully cured (dead and dry)
Making sure hay is fully cured and at the recommended moisture level before baling, can minimise the danger of spontaneous combustion. Depending on the variety, the curing process might have to be extended to ensure no moisture is present within the nodes. Every crop, region, season and paddock is different and moisture can vary within a paddock and during the day.
- Ensure the shed(s) are well-ventilated and check for leaks in the roof
The best way to keep your hay in good condition is to protect it from the sun, excessive wind and rain. Exposure to these elements can impact the quality of the hay and lead to a fire. Good ventilation is important to prevent any build-up of moisture in the hay, which can cause a fire due to spontaneous combustion. In the event some bales become damp, they should be stored separately and closely monitored.
- Stack to allow for airflow
Don’t pack your bales too tightly as you need to allow sufficient airflow to prevent moisture building up which can cause mould. Where possible keep hay above the ground. If the shed has no floor, consider using pallets below the bottom bales.
- Monitor for pests and mould
Mouldy hay is a problem not only because stock will often reject it as feed, but it can also cause respiratory disorders for you and your stock. Dead mice, rats or birds can cause contamination of the hay along with mould leading to serious illness in livestock and possibly death.
- Only store hay in dedicated sheds
Do not store chemicals, fuels or other accelerants which may cause contamination or ignite the hay. Avoid parking vehicles in the hay shed. We have also seen hay falling on vehicles and causing significant damage. If you do park vehicles near hay sheds, ensure you disconnect the electrics by disconnecting the terminals from the battery of the vehicle.
- Use a range of ways to detect heat
A probe can be a hit and a miss as it will not detect heat deeper in the stack. The best approach is to use multiple tools and regularly monitor for signs that the hay is heating. Unusual odours, rising steam, condensation or corrosion under roofing and/or slumping in sections of haystacks are common signs of heating.
- Spread your risk
Ensuing sufficient clearance surrounding hay sheds and spreading your risk by limiting the number of bales per shed can reduce the risk of losing all your valuable hay.