If you want to get the most bang for your buck out of your forage, it is vital that you store your hay well. Poorly-stored hay will deteriorate quickly and leave you liable to incur significant financial losses. Here are some storage tips to avoid such a disaster.
First of all, storing your forage in the right environment is critical. It is best to store hay in dry, low-humidity environments and to avoid allowing bales to come into direct contact with the ground. If you must store hay in these suboptimal environments, make sure to cover the hay. Otherwise, keeping hay in such a setting can cause in mold, pest infestation and the hay spoiling quickly. Nevertheless, where you store your forage is not the only component of good storage.
The most important prophylactic step you can take with storing hay is to tightly bind the outer layer of the hay. Hay that is loosely-bound is more susceptible to moisture penetrating it, which can lead to a litany of future issues and, overall, lower quality forage. Additionally, storing hay bales tightly next to one another will also prevent excessive water absorption.
Secondly, hay should never come into direct contact with the ground. This is the case not only when it is stored indoors (as mentioned above), but also when it is outdoors. For instance, a rock base to place hay on top of can prevent up to 50% of hay loss.
What you cover your hay with is important, too. Bale tarps are better than nothing, but bale wraps or sleeves are preferable, as they do a better job of keeping moisture out. Although they are more expensive in the short run, in the long run, they will actually generate a net savings because they will result in less spoiled hay. It is important to understand your individual needs, as well as the weather, in order to decide what kind of wraps you ought to use. Plastic wraps are completely waterproof, but this can result in hay retaining more moisture than it otherwise would. Net wraps allow the hay to “breathe” and prevent this problem, but as a result they are not entirely waterproof, so they may not be ideal in a particularly rainy climate.
When it comes to preserving the effective life of your hay, it is important to consider the environment you store your hay in, the proximity of hay to the ground and to other bales and how you wrap your hay. Pay a lot of thought into how you store your forage, as doing so haphazardly can result in financial ruin.