Farmers across the country took advantage of the hot, dry weather over the past two weeks by opting to secure hay bales for their winter fodder inventories.

Showers of rain over the weekend brought an end to the hay weather but more dry weather is expected this week and further ahead.

While hay is a useful winter feed to have, farmers should be careful when storing it as the dry texture of the feed causes it to be a potential fire hazard.

As well as the risk from sparks causing hay to ignite, stored hay bales with a high moisture content have been known to self-ignite as the stack can become extremely hot.

Warning about hay bales

Last year, Northern Ireland’s Fire and Rescue Service (NIFRS) took to Twitter to remind farmers of the potential hazards when making hay and offered farmers simple tips to prevent fires when making and storing hay.

The post outlined that fires are most likely within six weeks of baling hay. All hay with a moisture content above 15% will heat up within three to seven days of baling but generally not to dangerous levels.

If the moisture content is 22% or above, it can cause problems, both to the the quality of the hay and the risk of spontaneous combustion and fire.

The fire and rescue service advised farmers to check stored hay regularly and noted if there is a smell of caramel or a distinct musty smell, it is likely that the hay is heating.

If the temperature within the stack rises to above 55°C, hay can spontaneously combust. If farmers have hay stacked in a shed and they believe it is becoming extremely hot, the advice is to dismantle the haystack.

Finally, the fire and rescue service advised farmers to avoid storing hay in sheds containing fuels or chemicals ensuring it is also kept in a separate shed from livestock. Farmers should ensure there is adequate space between the top of the stack and any electrical lighting.