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OSU Extension

College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences

August 27, 2019 - 8:30am --

Greetings to all the livestock producers in Ohio reading this article. My name is Matthew Nussbaum and I began working with the Wayne county extension office this June as an ANR Program Assistant. Part of my role includes sending a monthly update to small ruminant and beef producer mailing lists (contact our office if you would like to be added to either) as well as occasional articles here.

Growing up and living on a small dairy farm in Wayne county as well as graduating from OSU ATI has given me a great appreciation and respect for everyone involved in agriculture. It certainly is a tough but rewarding business. This year’s extreme weather has been testing our resolve to continue in the business that we love. Remember the good years and why you do what you do… then, press on!

Continual rain and few consecutive days of drying have made haymaking a high-stakes game of chance with real money on the line. Odds are that you or the people you purchase hay from have had to “make-do” when it comes to baling. Often the hay is not quite at or below the desired moisture content for dry hay (15-20%) and small amounts of mold can even grow within that range. While small amounts of mold are often present in good hay, when the “dust” (spores) are clearly visible, additional management decisions need to be considered.

While horses are known for being the most sensitive to moldy hay, cattle and small ruminants can also experience negative effects. Palatability and nutritional values are decreased from rainfall alone and additionally from mold-growth. Visit to read Rory Lewandowski’s article about rain damage to hay.

Not all mold is dangerous for livestock, especially in small quantities. However, a University of Nebraska publication by Dr. Bruce Anderson notes that certain types of mold which produce mycotoxins can lead to cattle abortions when fed in excess. These toxins can also affect the nervous, immune and digestive systems of livestock. Respiratory issues in all types of livestock should be considered and monitored for onset. Consider testing questionable hay to determine mold severity and for the presence of mycotoxins. Anderson’s PDF can be viewed at

Extensive mold may also decrease your livestock’s intake of feed. Do not force your livestock to consume extremely poor-quality hay. Look for signs of feed rejection or limited intake and supplement accordingly or discard unfit hay. Moldy feeds may “reduce energy content by 5% for ruminants” say the authors of a 2016 Penn State article titled Mold and Mycotoxin Problems in Livestock Feeding, This extremely thorough article covers nutrition, symptoms of feeding moldy feeds to various types of livestock, and forage sampling tips. Knowing your forage values is important to reach your desired ration with proper supplements.

Some management practices suggested in the 2018 Penn State Extension article, Mold and Mycotoxins in Horse Hay ( include good ventilation in housing areas, feeding moldy hay outside and/or at ground level, and soaking hay prior to feeding to prevent mold spores from going airborne are all ways to minimize health risks to livestock. This article also notes that hay dried to desired levels, but that has been rained on in the field between mowing and baling is subject to mold. 

The risks are not limited to our livestock. Farmers need to consider their own health and well-being. (Who else is going to feed your critters?) OSHA recommends respiratory protection and wetting moldy feedstuffs when handling to prevent lung disease and illness. Provide these safeguards to all individuals working with moldy or even dusty materials. Time and money are precious commodities lost due to poor health. Your health matters! Finally, keep your chin up and watch for sunshine.

For our tech-savvy farmers, here is a list of potentially useful apps:

  1. “Farm Service Manager”- keep your service and maintenance history in one place.
  2. “FieldCheck” by FieldWatch- locate nearby honeybee populations before pesticide application.
  3. “Xarvio Scouting”- identifies weeds, diseases and percent defoliation using your phone’s camera.
  4. “Agrellus”- online agricultural marketplace for buyers and sellers of inputs and commodities.
  5. “Canopeo”- determines percentage of canopy cover in all green, growing crops.
  6. “Midwest Cover Crops Field Scout”- based on Purdue’s Cover Crop Field Guide.

               For a list of locations to have your forage tested, including mold burden, call our office at 330-264-8722 and ask for Matthew.



Matthew Nussbaum is an OSU Extension Agriculture & Natural Resources Program Assistant and may be reached at 330-264-8722.

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