THE Country Fire Authority is warning farmers to exercise caution with the cutting, baling, and storage of hay.
CFA acting chief Garry Cook said all farmers needed to take care of their hay and crops this bushfire season.
"Fodder conservation and storage is a vital and valuable component of the year-round farming operations," Mr Cook said.
"It is important for farmers to ensure haystacks are prepared well and bales are able to be stored safely."
CFA crews responded to 86 haystack fires across the state in 2019.
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Mr Cook said haystacks posed a fire danger which could occupy crucial firefighting resources during the bushfire season.
"When a haystack ignites, depending on the size of the stack, it can remain burning and smoulder over a long period and CFA crews are often required to monitor it for several days to make sure it doesn't spread," he said.
"Haystack fires can start quite easily from lightning strikes, sparks from equipment and machinery, but a major source of ignition is spontaneous combustion of the haybales themselves."
Spontaneous combustion can occur when hay has either not properly dried before baling, or has been exposed to rain or damp conditions.
The CFA has urged farmers to check the heat and smell of the bales before stacking them into haysheds or large external stacks, and leave any suspect bales separate from the rest.
Hot bales will often omit an odour like burning tobacco, and heat inside bales can be detected by inserting a steel rod or crowbar into the centre of a bale or stack of hay.
More information about haystack fires can be found at cfa.vic.gov.au/plan-prepare/hay-and-fire-safety
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