WIMMERA growers are being urged to makes plans for storing feed with hay harvest underway across the region.
The Country Fire Authority has issued a haystack fire warning to growers after a spate of haystack fires last season.
District 17 commander Lindsay Barry said haystack fires were always a major concern for the CFA.
"There was a significant increase in haystack fires last year, from stand alone bales to huge piles of bales worth thousands of dollars," he said.
Mr Barry said high rainfalls earlier in the year meant there was more growth in paddocks.
"The amount of hay that is being cut will of course make a big impact on how many haystack fires we have. It's looking like there will be less hay cut this year," he said.
CFA crews attended 83 haystack fires last season across the state, with many occurring in western Victoria. Since 2008, the CFA has responded to more than 1500 haystack fires.
"Last December we had a big weather event which meant a lot of open haystacks were susceptible to moisture and spontaneous combustion," Mr Barry said.
Spontaneous combustion can occur when hay is either not properly cured before baling, or not stored to protect it from rain or damp conditions. This means moisture content in the bales is higher than the recommended level.
Mr Barry urged farmers to plan and prepare prior to cutting hay.
"It's all about planning ahead and making sure the right procedures are followed," he said.
"Before they start cutting, they need to make sure the structure that the hay will be stored in is sound to prevent moisture. It's also important to move anything away from the shed that could be combustable.
"Bales shouldn't be too tightly bound. Temperatures of stacks need to be checked daily, or if it's more than 50 degrees inside the stack, twice daily."
He said haystack fires were also costly.
"The time spent by emergency services putting out haystack fires can be very long as it takes days for them to be put under control and you need specialist equipment," he said.
"The financial loss of haystack fires not only affects the growers but the region's economy too."
Mr Barry said people could find more information about preventing haystack fires on the CFA's website.
While you're with us, you can now receive updates straight to your inbox twice weekly from the Wimmera Mail-Times. To make sure you're up-to-date with all the news from across the Wimmera, sign up below.