Hay management

Learn about your legal obligations, and how to minimise the risk of spreading fire ants when working with hay and other baled products.

Baled hay, straw or sugarcane mulch produced inside fire ant biosecurity zones can spread fire ants if appropriate management rules are not followed.

Bales of hay, including lucerne, straw, and sugarcane provide both a food supply, shelter, and micro-climate that is attractive to fire ants.

The Biosecurity Regulation 2016 details a series of steps you must follow when working with hay and other baled products originating from within South East Queensland’s fire ant biosecurity zones. These include:

Keep a written record of the steps you have taken to ensure the materials are produced, processed and stored correctly. Include details about raking, baling and storing activities. Keep these records for a minimum of 2 years.

You should also be checking your property monthly for fire ants, paying special attention to organic material storage areas. This can be done in conjunction with existing property maintenance.

For further information, complete our online fire ant training or contact our compliance team on 13 25 23.


Producing hay

The timing of hay production and baling will reduce the risk of fire ant infestation in organic material.

  • The final 2 rakings must be conducted within 24 hours of each other.
  • Cut material must be baled within 24 hours of the last raking.
  • Baled materials must be moved off the property within 24 hours of baling or it must be stored  appropriately.

Storing hay

Storing baled materials appropriately is a simple measure to further reduce the risk of fire ant infestation in hay or other baled materials.

If materials are to remain on the property for more than 24 hours, you must use the following storage options:

  • off-ground and covered with an effective barrier that prevents alates (flying fire ant queens) from settling in the bales
  • on-ground:
    • covered with an effective barrier that prevents alates from settling in the bales
    • and

    • stored on a fire ant resistant surface surrounded by a 30cm wide perimeter treatment using an approved chemical product.

The role of the perimeter treatment and fire ant resistant surface is to prevent fire ant queens from crawling into the baled materials.

Storing off-ground

Baled materials can be stored off-ground on a trailer and either covered with a tarp or placed inside a shed.

Chemical treatment is not required if storing hay off-ground.

Storing materials on pallets is not considered off-ground storage. Material can easily fall through gaps and form a 'bridge', potentially allowing fire ants to infest the bales. If you want to use pallets, you may do so, but you must follow the recommendations for on-ground storage.

Storing on-ground

Baled hay can be stored on a fire ant resistant surface. Some examples of fire ant resistant surfaces include:

  • concrete or bitumen (with no cracks)
  • a barrier that fire ants cannot penetrate (e.g. 200 micron unperforated continuous plastic sheeting)
  • compacted ground (other than sand) that has been treated with an appropriate chemical product before materials are stored.

You must apply a chemical treatment correctly if using on-ground storage. If the material will be stored:

  • on a fire ant-resistant surface (as above), apply a 30cm wide perimeter around the storage area
  • on compacted ground, the entire ground surface must be treated. Bales likely to be used to feed animals require an impermeable barrier such as rubber mats or plastic sheeting to avoid contamination.

The Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA) has approved the use of bifenthrin for the protection of storage areas (PER14317). This permit expires 29 February 2024.

Insecticides must be used under the conditions of the APVMA permit, the safety data sheet (SDS) and in conjunction with the product's label.


Moving hay

You may move baled materials in, across, or outside the fire ant biosecurity zones if you:

  • transport material from zone 1 directly to a nearby waste facility in zone 1 or 2
  • transport material from zone 2 to a waste facility in zone 2 only
  • move the material within 24 hours of it arriving at the original place
  • follow the management methods outlined below.

You can also use our material movement advice tool to find out what rules apply to you and your situation.

If cannot comply with these conditions then you must not move the material unless you are granted a biosecurity instrument permit.

Planning on moving materials?

Different rules apply depending on what you are moving and where. Before you turn the key, make sure it’s safe to move your load.


Receiving baled materials

Fire ants can travel to your property undetected in organic materials. If receiving baled materials, protect yourself from fire ant infestation by asking the producer, supplier, or delivery driver questions such as:

  • Was the material grown or loaded inside a fire ant biosecurity zone?
  • If so, ask the supplier the following questions and ensure the answers align with the advice on this page:
    • do you know how the material was produced?
    • have the bales been left in a paddock for more than 24 hours?
    • how have the bales been stored?