Ammonia Treatment to Increase Forage Quality

W. P. Weiss, Department of Dairy Science, Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, Wooster, and W. L. Shockey, Agriculture, Natural Resources, and Community Development, WVU Extension Service, Preston County


  1. Ammonia greatly improves the feeding value of low-quality forage. Crude protein content can be increased 5 to 7 percentage units and total digestable nutrients (TDN) by 15 percentage units. Neutral detergent fiber (NDF) can decrease by 5 to 8 percentage units.
  2. Ammonia does not significantly improve quality of high-quality forage such as alfalfa.
  3. Do not ammoniate immature grasses or cereal grain hay. A potent toxin having no known cure can be produced.
  4. Procedure.
  1. Apply between 1% to 3 % of wet bale weight (assuming moisture content less than 20%). If bales are wetter, use low rate of application (maximum of 1%).
  2. Estimate bale weight and calculate total weight of hay that will be treated per batch. Stack the hay loosely (leaving some air space) and place a plastic, not galvanized, tank or tube in the center of the stack.
  3. Run a hose from the tube to the outside of the stack.
  4. Seal the stack as tightly as possible with good-quality plastic; sealing the edges with soil is a good idea.
  5. Multiply total bale weight by application rate (1% to 3%) and buy a tank with just that much ammonia in it. Connect the tank to the hose and open the valve.
  6. The hay should remain covered 3 weeks before feeding. It is a good idea to let the bales stand exposed to air for a few days so some of the free ammonia can escape.
  7. Analyze the forage before feeding so you can adjust protein and energy supplementation accordingly.

Programs and activities offered by the West Virginia University Extension Service are available to all persons without regard to race, color, sex, disability, religion, age, veteran status, political beliefs, sexual orientation, national origin, and marital or family status. Issued in furtherance of Cooperative Extension work, Acts of May 8 and June 30, 1914, in cooperation with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Director, Cooperative Extension Service, West Virginia University.