Hay caps can reduce spontaneous combustion risk

By Rodney Woods

As some farmers contemplate cutting failed cereal and canola crops, the benefit of covering haystacks cannot be underestimated.

“Experience has shown that, in the past, cereal crops that are drought-stressed are more likely to produce high quality hay with a high sugar content," specialist hay producer and Hay Caps inventor Phil Snowden said.

"Extra care needs to be taken to ensure this hay is properly cured before baling.

"These failed crops, although disappointing for the grain grower, can make the best quality cereal and canola hay if done on time, made properly and stacked under cover."

With farmers in NSW on zero water allocation, Mr Snowden said they would be relying on the feed they produced to get them through.

"Protecting this hay from rain is paramount as the high sugar content means the hay is more likely to spontaneously combust if moisture gets into the bales."

The CFA said storing hay in a number of different locations and limiting the size of stacks would reduce the risk of losing all your hay if a fire does occur.

The CFA also advised farmers not to store hay near vehicles, machinery and equipment and if there were signs the hay was starting to heat, pull the stack apart to improve airflow and allow the bales to cool.

Mr Snowden has been covering hay for more than 30 years and looked at the major problems with the systems that had been used previously, before coming up with a simple and safe way to cover large-bale haystacks.

"Hay Caps are applied at ground level to the bale and then the covered bale is placed on top as the stack is built," he said.

"Folds butt together, creating a roof over the hay.

"The Hay Caps are proving themselves within the industry to be a very affordable option and have the ability to cover any volume of hay safely from the ground and be reused year after year."

For information, phone Hay Caps on 1800 429 227 or visit

Signs of heating hay:

Steam rising from haystacks.

Condensation or corrosion under hayshed roofing.

Mould growth in, or on, bales.

Unusual odours (burning, musty, pipe tobacco or caramel).

Slumping in sections of the haystack.

Preventing haystack fires:

Ensure hay is fully cured before baling.

Bale and store each bale type at the correct moisture level.

Know the history of hay that you purchase, particularly its moisture content.

Protect hay from rain, leaking roofs and spouts, and run-off.

Be careful when operating vehicles, machinery and equipment near your haystacks.

Create and maintain fuel breaks around your haystacks.

Regularly monitor stored hay for signs of heating.