Dealing With Hay and Feedstuffs During Recovery

Hurricane Michael brought untold damage to several areas of agriculture. Farmers must know how to manage the loss of hay and feedstuffs they experienced.

Damage to Hay

  • Document all losses of hay as soon as it is safe to do so.
  • Take photos of bales or the place where bales were stored prior to the storm.
  • Write down the number of bales, type and quality of hay, and the estimated weight or size (i.e., 4 × 4, 4 ×5, etc.).
  • Contact the FSA office and visit them with this information as soon as possible.
  • Eligible Hay losses with be covered under the Emergency Assistance for Livestock, Honeybees, and Farm-raised Fish Program (ELAP). More information can be found at
  • To qualify for the program, hay had to be baled, and the program will not cover hay that was cut and on the ground.
  • This program only covers hay purchased to feed or hay cut to feed. The program does not cover hay that was cut to sell.
  • Document hay that was flooded vs. hay that was rained on.
  • When possible, have an Extension agent or other official help you document your losses.
  • Farmers need to file a ‘notice of loss’ to the FSA office within 30 days of the loss.

Feeding Damaged Hay

  • Even if hay was not submerged in water, heavy rains will likely decrease quality of hay stored outside or on the ground.
  • Hay that is submerged by as little as 1 ft, has little usable forage remaining.
  • The amount of rotted hay, mold, and possible contaminants in flooded hay, make it of little value and potentially a hazard to livestock.
  • Hay that has less than < 1 ft submersion, may still have some useable forage, but should be used with caution and should only be fed to cattle.
  • For hay submerged < 1ft, feed the dry hay, but do not force the cattle to consume the wet and rotting portion of the bale.
  • Hay that was flooded in storage barns should be removed as soon as possible
  • This hay will begin to heat and spontaneous combustion is a possibility
  • Hay that is not fit for livestock should be disposed of by burning or compositing.

Loss of Feedstuffs

  • Feed that farmers had on hand (including commercial feed and harvested commodities) may be covered by the ELAP program. Farmers need to document the amount and type of feed that was damaged, and type of damage that occurred.

Using Alternative Feedstuffs

  • Some producers may be faced with a situation where pasture is severely impacted, and/or there is little to no hay available to feed.
  • Cows can be fed on concentrates but need some forage or other fiber source to stay in good digestive health. Cows can be fed up to 15 lbs of whole shell corn or other concentrates, and about 2 lbs of a protein supplement along with 5 lbs of hay. However, this process requires a transition period and acclimation to starchier-based feeds in the diet. Increase the amount of corn in the diet by 2 to 3 pounds every three days until the target level of supplementation is achieved.

If trying to limit-feed hay, the hay should be put out in such a way that all animals can eat at the same time (by dispersing square-baled hay, or unrolling round bales.

More Information

For assistance with any of the mentioned programs, please contact your local Animal Science and Forage Extension agent. This information can be found at or by contacting your local County Office.

  • Geneva County Extension Office: 334-684-2484
  • Henry County Extension Office: 334-585-6416
  • Dale County Extension Office: 334-774-2329
  • Houston County Extension Office: 334-794-4108

This article was adapted with permission from a previous article by Dr. Matt Poore, North Carolina State University.

Prepared by: Leanne Dillard, Ph.D., Extension Forage Specialist. Auburn University Department of Animal Sciences and Department of Crop, Soil, and Environmental Sciences, Kim Mullenix, Auburn University Department of Animal Sciences, and Soren Rodning, Auburn University Department of Animal Sciences. Dillard 18-3.

Hurricane Michael Recovery Information

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