4 Winter Hay Storage Tips: How to Make Your Supply Last Through WinterChris Beerman
Last year’s winter dragged on in the Midwest, causing severe hay shortages for almost half of the region’s local farmers.
Whether this year’s winter is short and dry or stormy and prolonged, hay storage is likely a big concern for you. Even if prices stay steady through the season, you don’t want to come up short before the next growing season.
In this post, we’ll discuss four hay storage tips to ensure you’ve got enough to last until the spring.
1. Reduce Dry Matter Losses
Your number one concern with storing hay (especially in the winter) is reducing loss. Dry matter (DM) losses can be as high as 40% in hay that’s improperly stored–a waste of your hard-earned money!
To reduce this waste, your best bet is to store your hay inside through the winter months. If this isn’t an option, the next best thing you can do is elevate the hay with a thin layer of gravel.
You’ll also want to cover the bales with a sturdy plastic tarp to protect them from the elements.
2. Storing Rectangular Bales
If you’re storing rectangular bales of hay over the winter, you hopefully have somewhere inside to protect them. If there’s no space inside, a covered pole barn or a shed enclosed on one or more sides will keep them safe and dry.
In the weeks just after bailing, make sure there’s enough ventilation in your hay storage area. If possible, leave three to four feet between each row. This will ensure the exiting moisture has somewhere to go and the hay doesn’t end up spoiled or moldy.
You should only stack hay bales if you plan to cover them. Otherwise, moisture will trickle down and ruin the lowest bales.
3. Storing Round Bales
Because of their size, round hay bales are usually stored outside on the ground–even during the winter.
If you live in a fairly dry region with more snow than rain, you should be able to keep your DM losses to a minimum. Experts have found that this natural weathering actually increases fiber content and digestibility within the hay.
If your area receives a lot of rain during the winter months, covering your round bales is the best way to protect them against excessive loss.
4. Consider Wastage
Cattle may waste as much as 60% of the hay you feed them–which is a waste of everyone’s money and time.
In general, any hay stored outside experiences more damage and reduced palpability than hay stored indoors. For this reason, it’s best to feed your livestock hay that’s been stored outside first.
Check out more great tips about how to reduce wastage and make the most of your hay year-round.
Winter Hay Storage: Now You Know
As you can see, a proper storage system goes a long way in storing hay.
By using these hay storage tips, you’ll ensure your livestock has the food they need to thrive during the coldest winter months.
Our great tips for everything related to hay and cattle farming doesn’t stop here. Click here to check out our other recent posts about hay.