Cows Eat Mouldy Hay

Can Cows Eat Mouldy Hay?

When raising cows you must know the diversity of what cows eat. If you know, you can have a dietary diversity that can adequately fulfil the cows’ nutritional needs. Some cattle farmers have access to fresh pastures most of the time. Others unfortunately do not and have to rely mostly on commercial feeds. Regardless of the context it is vital to appreciate that cows can eat hay. Hay can be grass that has been cut and dried for use as fodder for the cows. Hay could also be a mix of green leafy plants used as fodder. Can cows eat mouldy hay? Let us find out.


Cows Can But Should Not Eat Mouldy Hay

Often time cows will eat what is presented to them. That can happen with mouldy hay but that does not make it right. Cows may not at all exhibit any aversion to mouldy hay. It is mainly about just how mouldy the hay is. Regardless, mouldy hay presents a wide range health risks to the cows. Even if the cows were to eat the mouldy hay, you will notice some things.

One of them is that they most likely will not eat it much. The tricky thing about mouldy hay is that it will affect your cows’ well-being overall. Even when you do feed them with healthy food later, by then they would have been affected already. That is why, even under desperate circumstances, you should never let cows eat mouldy hay. Sadly circumstances may not always make that plausible.

Negative Effects Of Cows Eating Mouldy Hay

Respiratory Challenges

Before we even get to the ingestion of the mouldy hay, it starts off with the dust it produces. The dust produced from the mouldy hay even has negative health effects on humans. For the cows it will compromise their respiratory processes. The cows may start to cough vigorously. They may also encounter difficulties in breathing.


When cows eat mouldy hay, it will usually result in indigestion. Mouldy hay itself is not easily digestible. Once the cows ingest it, the mouldy hay will infect and affect their digestive system. This will definitely lead to weight loss as the cows will eat less. Plus there will be a host of other ailments that usually develop in them.

Reproductive Challenges

When the cows eat mouldy hay, it introduces mycotoxins into their system. This often leads to infections inside the cows’ bodies. It has been found that gestating cows can get seriously affected by eating mouldy hay. Once they ingest the mouldy hay, it can infect their placenta. In some cases it can get to the fetus as well.

This has reproductive effects on your cows. Abortions will likely occur and that also puts your cows in danger. People who have fed their cows with mouldy hay indicate that abortions occur the most. As much as you may feed other cows with mouldy hay, never do it for pregnant cows.

Better Get Your Hay Tested

It may be usual to find moulds in your hay. That should only be minimal making it possible to just avoid the mouldy portions. No wonder at times cows can eat mildly mouldy hay without incident. It becomes an issue if the bulk of the hay is laden with mould. It is not always easy to determine how serious or minimal the mouldiness of your hay is. One of the reasons for this is that not all mouldy hay is necessarily toxic.

In some cases just visual assessment can suffice. For instance, when the mould is not effortlessly visible that could mean your cows can eat the hay. In other cases you may have to get the hay tested. You can find labs or lab experts that can conduct such tests for you. Those are labs that do feed tests. If there are it might be best to make this your operational principle i.e. getting your hay tested first. Regardless of how good the hay may seem. Never gamble or leave anything to chance; be sure your hay is healthy for your cows.

How To Deal With Mouldy Hay

It usually is not economical to discard mouldy hay. That is why some farmers get confronted with difficult decisions of whether or not to feed the cows with mouldy hay. You could at least do something about the mouldy hay to make it more palatable and less toxic. That will depend on the extent of the mouldiness. Here are some ways:

Flash Soaking Mouldy Hay

You can briefly soak the mouldy hay in water. Just for a few minutes. Then you drain the water and spread out the hay to dry. You can dry naturally or you can use artificial means. This can considerably eliminate the dust and some of the moulds. Dust particles responsible for respiratory infections can be reduced by almost 90 percent.

Mixing Mouldy Hay With Forages

You can mix up the mouldy hay with other hay that is not mouldy. You could also mix the mouldy hay with other forage feeds. The healthier portions will serve as a buffer against possible infection from the mouldy hay. This has been found to lower the toxicity or negative effects of the mouldy hay.

Final Words

It is in your best interest to desist from feeding cows with mouldy hay. If you provide the cows with mouldy hay they may of course eat it. That will not take away from the harmful effects mouldy hay will have on your cows. Ultimately that will adversely affect your bottom line. Mouldy hay can usually result from overexposure to moisture e.g. from rain. That is why proper storage of hay is important. Understandably it can be costly to source or make hay. However, once it gets mouldy, it best not to allow your cows to eat it. You do have to weigh your options because losses from hay loss can be crippling. Yet at the same time costs of treating infected cows can be crippling too.