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The haystack is a type of construction which is a feature typical of the calid European countries. It consists of a central wooden pole with stacked hay layers around it, forming a heap for later transfer to the barn.
A small wall used to be build around the haystack to prevent the cattle approaching it to eat the hay. At present, with the use of machinery, such storage has been replaced by "bales" of straw.
The loose hay was transported to a designated area for collection -usually a slightly raised area to allow the water to be drained-, where the haystack (or pile of hay) was to be formed. The haystack was made waterproof (a task that needed a considerable skill) by compressing the hay under its own weight and with the heat released by the residual moisture helping the compression forces. The cell was surrounded by a fence to separate it from the rest of the field. When needed, the haystack was opened with the help of a knife and every day part of hay was used to feed the animals. Depending on the area, the haystack could be supported on an internal structure having a waterproof cover that could be lowered as hay retreated.
The haystacks produce internal heat due to bacterial fermentation. If hay is stacked with wet grass, the heat produced can be sufficient to ignite the hay causing a fire. Farmers should be careful about moisture levels to avoid this "spontaneous combustion", because the fire in a haystack can be very dangerous.
Hay stacked before it is fully dry can produce enough heat to start a fire. Farmers have to be careful about moisture levels to avoid spontaneous combustion, which is a leading cause of haystack fires. Heat is produced by the respiration process, which occurs until the moisture content of drying hay drops below 40%. Hay is considered fully dry when it reaches 20% moisture. Combustion problems typically occur within five days to seven days of stacking. A haystack cooler than 120 °F (49 °C) is in little danger, hay between 120 and 140 °F (48.9 and 60 °C) need to be removed from haystacks or other structures and separated so that they can cool off. If the temperature of a haystack exceeds more than 140 °F (60 °C), it can combust.
- W.J. Kirwin; G. M. Story; J.D.A. Widdowson (1 November 1990). Dictionary of Newfoundland English: Second Edition with supplement. University of Toronto Press. pp. 1195–. ISBN 978-1-4426-9065-3. Retrieved 2 March 2013.
- "Haystack Fires (Spontaneous Combustion)". Department of Primary Industries, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. October 2008. Retrieved 2009-06-21.
- "Barn Fires: Avoid Hay Bale Combustion." The Horse, online edition. by: Oklahoma State University July 24, 2009, Article # 14589. Accessed June 13, 2010
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