Limiting Hay Loss Especially Important This Winter
If you are a livestock producer, hay is something you always need. And you always want that hay to be plentiful and of the highest quality. Limiting hay loss is also important.
While storing round hay bales indoors increases the chances of hay being at its best, the fact is, sometimes that just isn’t an option. However, you still can do your best to keep hay as safe as possible from the ravages of Mother Nature.
Accounting for the fact that 4 inches of a 5-foot diameter hay bale accounts for at least 25 percent of the bale’s dry matter, you can understand why storage losses quickly accumulate. Research shows that dry matter losses range from 10 to 30 percent when hay is store outdoors. This is significant in any given year but the fact that hay supplies are down this year means it is especially troubling.
So how can you limit your losses when you store round bales outside? Chances are you know the best management practices but sometimes a refresher course comes in handy. So here are some tips on how to limit your hay losses:
Use net wrap More effective than twine, net wrap allows for faster wrapping and allows bales to shed water more efficiently. It also cuts dry matter losses by up to 33% when compared to twine. While net wrap is more expensive, the return on investment makes up for that fact.
Create dense bales Dense bales do more than shed water well, they also sag less, reducing bale-to-soil contact when bales are stored directly on the ground.
Carefully select storage location Storing bales on rock is your best option. If that isn’t possible, look for an area that drains well and has good air flow. Storing bales under a tree line is a big no-no as drying rates are slow in such areas.
Stack bales end-to-end Stacking bales tightly reduces end spoilage. When you stack bales side-to-side or in a pyramid with no cover, water will roll off one bale and onto another.
Leave space between bales Always leave at least 3 feet between rows of bales. This will allow for more air flow and drying.
Run rows parallel with the slope Rows of bales that are stacked across the slope prevent water movement.
Use north to south rows Run hay bales in long rows that go north to south and you will allow for more drying of bales.