Moisture Meters: An Essential Tool for Producing High Quality Hay

Posted by Tom Laurenzi on Mar 23, 2022 3:03:15 PM

This first installment in our original series uncovers the beneficial functions of reliable moisture meters in the hay industry and why they remain an indispensable part of agricultural operations. Farmers have long recognized moisture as an enemy of hay crops, especially during baling and storage. A moisture meter serves as an essential tool to monitor and manage moisture content (MC), keeping hay crops in optimal condition. 

Measuring MC based on touch or estimation exposes hay producers to the myriad risks that stem from inaccurate readings, from safety hazards to compromised crop quality. It's vital, then, to select and utilize a high quality hay moisture meter to ensure reliable readings for all hay bale types and sizes.  

Hay Moisture Meter Basics


A hay moisture meter is a small, portable, battery-powered device with available various length prods or probes for field  measurements. You can achieve accurate moisture readings within seconds by inserting the prod into a hay bale at a 45-degree angle and pressing the Read button. 

The best practices for moisture meter testing differ depending on whether the hay is loose or baled:  

Moisture Testing for Loose Hay (In the windrow)


  • Pack the hay tightly in a large bucket and run a meter test with a multi-pin probe designed for loose hay. Note that denser and tighter bundles typically yield more accurate readings.
  • Mix up the hay, repack the bundle, and re-test for additional readings.  
  • Repeat the process several times to calculate an average from the readings. 

Moisture Testing for Baled Hay 


  • Insert the probe into the bale center, stopping for a measurement at various depths, depending on bale size.   
  • Conduct several tests in different parts of the bale, both across and between the slices (sq bale), note the high readings and their frequency. Then average out the readings since moisture levels vary throughout the bale and stack.  

Advantages of a Quality Hay Moisture Meter


Hay moisture meters are essential devices that provide hay producers with a wide range of benefits:

  • Providing reliable moisture readings for hay bales of all sizes. 
  • Offering comprehensive readings throughout the bale, and also in the windrow prior to baling.  
  • Facilitating quick and convenient testing before, during, while in storage, and when buying and selling.
  • Detecting the moisture not detected by traditional measurement methods like touch or visual assessment.
  • Operating smoothly without interrupting baling with available on-the-go monitoring. 
  • Helps you keep a close gauge on dry matter concentrations and prevent excess moisture buildup during drying, raking, baling, and other critical phases of the hay production process. 

Additionally, you should test your crop across various locations as random bale spoilage may occur from fluctuating factors such as shade, density, soil moisture, and windrow size. The highest spoilage risk for hay occurs between two to six weeks after storage. Therefore, we recommend regular moisture and temperature testing during this period. 



Optimize Hay Moisture Levels


Many industry experts agree that optimized baling and storage should occur at moisture levels between 18-20% of the total composition. Farmers may prefer 12-16% moisture levels for large square bales with higher heat retention. 

Keep in mind as well that your hay storage conditions affect moisture levels. For example, hay stored indoors usually contains 20% MC, creating a more hospitable breeding ground for mold than stock that is exposed to direct sunlight. A specialized hay moisture meter will help you maintain optimal moisture levels based on the specific requirements of your stock and conditions of your storage.

The Delmhorst Instrument Difference


At Delmhorst Instrument, we believe in equipping hay producers with winning moisture meter tools for every use case.  

For over 75 years Delmhorst has been producing hand-held moisture meters for a variety of industries where requirements for ruggedly built, accurate testing devices are paramount. Designed with robust and reliable electronics, Delmhorst F-series hay testers, from the popular and easy to use analog meters, to combination hand-held and on-the-go monitoring offered in the FX-2000, there is a meter and special application probe suited for most hay producers’ needs.  

The next installment of our series takes a closer look at how reliable, high-quality moisture meters can fulfill your specific farming and harvesting needs. 

Learn more about our vast inventory of moisture meters by visiting our website or contacting our specialists regarding our exciting range of moisture meters and testing tools.

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Topics: Moisture Meter hay storage safety hay industry moisture content in hay hay moisture meter hay moisture tester hay spoilage hay storage hay shedding hay baling hay moisture content