Tips on storing hay as summer winds down
As summer winds down, our focus turns from baling hay to storing hay. Although storing hay indoors is ideal, it is not always possible. To protect your hay investment, follow these five hay storage tips:
- When storing outdoors, bales should be covered with a tarp or another durable cover. Tarps and plastic covers have reduced storage losses by half. For round bales stored outdoors, using net wrap or B-wrap reduces storage losses compared to twine.
- Water and animal proof the storage site. Don't stack hay under a leaky roof as it will grow moldier with each rainfall event. Plug rodent holes and detour wildlife, such as raccoons, from living in hay storage areas during the winter months. Not only can rodents and wildlife make a mess of hay storage areas, feces from some wildlife can cause diseases in horses.
- Regardless of indoor or outdoor storage, do not stack hay directly on the ground. Instead, stack bales on pallets to allow air flow and help prevent hay from absorbing ground moisture. Hay bales stored on wet surfaces can have as much as 50% spoilage.
- Use older hay first. However, hay should keep indefinitely if the hay was properly baled and stored. High humidity can increase moisture content and reduce storage life. Therefore, we recommend feeding hay within two years of harvest.
- When storing round bales outdoors, store them end to end. Stacking round bales while stored outdoors usually increases losses as stacking traps moisture and limits drying from the sun and wind. Additionally, buy or bale tightly packed bales, store bales on a well-drained surface, and never store bales under trees or in low lying areas.