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Hay Storage Considerations, Don't Waste it!

Nancy Glazier, Small Farms & Livestock Specialist
Northwest New York Dairy, Livestock & Field Crops

Last Modified: June 4, 2013
Hay Storage Considerations, Don't Waste it!

With lost hay this season from armyworms and dry conditions, and high purchased feed prices, more of the bale will need to be utilized. Large bales are a convenient form of hay for one-person operations. These bales can be moved, stored and fed relatively easily with the right equipment. Hay loss can occur when baling, moving and feeding and some is unavoidable. The biggest loss - both dry matter and digestibility - occurs with outdoor storage. Dry matter loss can reach 50% depending on the beginning quality, storage conditions and length of storage. It is not always realistic or practical to build a barn to store hay. Here are some tips to minimize waste from outdoor storage.

Tightly wrapped bales tend to shed water better. The outer layer forms a thatch to reduce water infiltration. What helps with shedding precipitation is placing the bales lined up tightly together end to end. Pick a site that has good ventilation, away from hedgerows and wooded areas. This gives bales a better chance to dry out from air movement. And think about row spacing of at least 3 feet for good air flow and sunlight penetration. It's also a good idea to keep vegetation mowed between rows.

Ideally, bales should be stored off the ground. Hay stored directly on the ground may lose up to 12 inches on the bottom of the bales due to wicking action. Find some waste material such as old fence posts, pallets or tires and place the bales on top. Gravel or stone may work too. Research was conducted by University of Tennessee animal scientists comparing different methods of storing large round bales of grass hay. The hay was cut and baled in June in Tennessee. The bales were weighed at the time of harvest and storage. Then they were weighed again the following January at the time of winter feeding. The following table lists the type of storage and the resulting percentage hay loss.

Losses of Hay Stored using Six Methods of Storage
Note the difference between storage in the barn and on tires and covered. Some small changes can make a big difference! Plastic tarps can be relatively inexpensive when the saving from reducing loss is calculated

Type of Storage Percentage (%) Hay Loss

On ground, no cover 37%
On tires, no cover 29%
On ground, covered 29%
On tires, covered 8%
Net wrap on ground 19%
In barn 6%











Upcoming Events

Fertilizers and Herbicides

Event Offers DEC Credits

March 31, 2023
Mount Morris, NY

As input costs rise, it is necessary to employ the best management practices, and it can be advantageous to know what you're getting from your purchases. Plan to attend if you want to understand the terminology, calculations, formulations, and chemistry behind your fertility and herbicide recommendations. 

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Agritourism Workshops Monthly!

February 20, 2023
March 20, 2023
April 17, 2023
May 15, 2023
June 19, 2023
July 17, 2023

Are you thinking of starting an agritourism business or are you currently operating one?
Join our monthly lunch-hour, workshop virtual series and learn how to grow your agritourism business!

The first session will cover the basics of running an agritourism operation. The following sessions will focus on specific topic to help aspiring agritourism entrepreneurs grow their knowledge and profit through this exciting on-farm business.

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Dairy Comp 305 for Spanish Speakers

April 19, 2023

This program was rescheduled from March 30th.

This workshop is for employees, supervisors or managers whose first language is Spanish and whose job entails using DC305 on a daily basis.  The objective is for attendees to improve their understanding of the "language" of DC305 as well as the whys behind consistent data entry.  Since DC305 is specific to each farm, the workshop will focus on general application and deeper understanding of how data is used on dairy farms.

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