October 20th, 2021

3 Tips for Storing Hay Properly To Make It Last

When you’ve got livestock to manage, hay is one of the most precious resources you can have. The challenge of having enough hay on hand to adequately feed your livestock is that you need to figure out how you’re going to store all of that hay and preserve it so that it doesn’t go bad. Here are three tips for storing hay properly to make it last.

Bundling Hay

To veteran ranchers, baling hay may be old hat, but for the inexperienced, it can be challenging to discern what method of baling is the most effective and will provide enough feed for the entire season. Providing enough of the same type of hay is important because changes in diet may otherwise upset the digestive system of your animals.

  • Small Square Bales – Traditional square hay bales typically contain 40 to 100 pounds of hay that are contained with string or wire. While easiest to move around, they’re the most labor- and cost-intensive.
  • Large Square Bales – Containing between 600 and 700 pounds of hay, these larger bales require a tractor with a loader spike in order to be moved around. Luckily, these bales break off into flakes akin to small square bales for easy feeding.
  • Large Round Bales – The easiest type of bale to create, these range from 500 to 1,800 pounds of hay. While these are the most economical bales, they have a few drawbacks as a tradeoff. They’re designed to be fed whole out in the field, so once you set it out, the hay could go to waste if it’s not entirely eaten by the livestock.

Indoor Storage

Of these three tips for storing hay properly to make it last, storing the hay indoors will always be the ideal method. When sheltered and under a cover, the hay is best protected from the elements and changes in the weather. It’s also safe from contaminants in the environment that may otherwise compromise the nutritional value of the hay. Organization is key to ensure the hay is stored somewhere accessible but safe. Ensure your hay storage is somewhere elevated, well-drained, and well ventilated. For obvious reasons, you should always keep flame sources away from hay storage, as it is incredibly flammable.

Outdoor Storage

While indoors may be ideal, it’s not always practical. It’s more common for hay to be stored in shelters or sheds that simply have a roof and no walls. In this scenario, tarps and other covers are essential. Even if you’re expecting sunny weather, keep in mind the sunlight will bleach the hay, depriving it of nutrients like protein and vitamin A. Furthermore, when you move hay out into the pasture where your cattle reside, you should consider investing in portable cattle hay feeders. These not only make it easier to transport the hay but also keep the hay off the ground and protected from contaminants and dirt for a more nutritious meal.

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