I know as soon as the weather breaks, we are all looking to harvest some hay. The way this hay is stored has a huge impact on the quality of the hay for your animals during feeding season.
A lot of hay will be cut and baled here in Newton County. Once forage is put into a bale, how you choose to store that bale will have a major impact on the quality of the hay.
To help you to get the most out of your hay, here are some suggestions for the successful storage of round bales of hay.
Hay that is exposed to the weather can result in losses in dry matter, forage quality, reduced intake, and greater animal refusal. These negative characteristics of outside bale storage will only get worse as storage time increases. Unprotected bales stored outside may become damaged from 5 to 6 inches. This can result in up to 50% dry matter loss.
The more valuable your hay is the easier it is to justify spending time and money to reduce storage losses. Horse quality hay is usually a more valuable crop than the hay used to over winter beef cattle. Farmers that are producing this quality of hay will especially want to take all steps necessary to improve their hay storage conditions.
Contact between hay and the soil is a hot spot for spoilage and loss. Some information shows that 50% of the losses from outside bales occur where the bale and the soil come together. Store hay on crushed rock, concrete pads, or wooden pallets this will limit the hay/soil contact. If this can’t be done – choose a well-drained site – such as a sandy soil. Place bales at the top of slopes in rows that run up and down the slopes this will prevent water from standing for extended periods of time after a rain event.
To avoid loss due to fire don’t store hay around things that could draw lightening, such as power lines, towers, and antennas. It is a good idea to store hay bales in more than one area to insure against a total fire loss. Store hay bales in sunny areas that have good air flow and avoid storing hay under trees or in other slow drying areas. Sunny areas with good air flow will increase the evaporation rate of water after a rain.
For more information about hay storage please contact The Newton County Extension Office at 870-446-2240. Remember to check out our Facebook UAEX Newton County Extension Agriculture News.
Newton County Ag-Extension Agent-Staff Chair