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Outdoor Hay Storage Solutions

Here’s how to make the most of your forage investment, come rain or shine.

| July/August 2019

ShelteringHay-cover
Photo by Adobe Stock/Tomasz Zajda

If you feed hay to your livestock, you know how expensive it can be to keep your animals well-fed on quality forage. Whether you purchase the hay or bale it yourself, making the most of your investment requires proper storage to ensure both quality and longevity.

According to an article published by Ohio State University, if you turn out an average of 4 tons of alfalfa hay per acre, the cost to produce that hay is $133.02 per ton, or $532.08 per acre. Even on a relatively small 20-acre hayfield, your expenses could be $10,000 or more.

The same article goes on to say that hay stored indoors may suffer a 4-to-7-percent loss over the course of a year, while hay kept outside without cover can see a 25-to-35-percent loss. Even a loss of 25 percent due to inadequate storage equates to a $2,500 hit to your initial investment. If your only option is to store your hay outside, minimizing loss with proper storage techniques will help you keep more of your valuable hay for feed.



Types of Bales

Baled hay comes in a few different forms, which somewhat dictates how the bales should be stored. The three main types of bales are the traditional rectangular bale, the large rectangular bale, and the round bale.

  • Traditional rectangular bales were the first type to be produced by a mechanical baler, and are probably the most well-known. The bales are normally 2 feet wide by 2 feet high by 4 feet long, and are held together by twine or wire. They usually weigh between 40 and 80 pounds. Their size and ease of handling makes them ideal for feeding horses or small numbers of livestock.
  • Large rectangular bales are roughly 3 feet wide by 3 feet high by 8 feet long, and can weigh 800 pounds or more. The bales can be broken off in parts to feed, but require the use of equipment to produce and transport.
  • Round bales have become the most popular type of bale produced on large-scale farms and ranches. They range in size from 600 to 2,000 pounds, and are probably the most cost-effective bale to produce. Because of their size, round bales are more often stored outdoors.

Sheltering-sunset
Photo by Getty Images/Meindert van der Haven





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