Over a quarter of your hay's nutrients can be lost due to weathering between now and feeding next winter, warns Bruce Anderson, agronomy professor at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, but you can minimize losses. Here are his do's and don'ts:
- Begin by making dense, evenly formed bales or stacks because they shed water better and sag less than a soft core or less dense package.
- Use net wrap or plastic twine spaced no more than 4 inches apart on round bales to maintain bale shape and provide a smooth surface that encourages water runoff.
- Store hay on an elevated, well-drained site so it won't soak up moisture from wet soils or standing water.
- Place round bales or stacks so there is about 1 foot of air space on all sides for good ventilation.
- Store round bales with flat ends butted end-to-end in a cigar-like shape. Orient these rows north and south so prevailing winds will not cause snow drifts and so both sides of the row can receive sunlight for drying.
- Avoid storing near terrace valleys, fences or tree lines that allow snow to drift onto hay or prevent wind and sunshine from drying off wet bales.
- Never stack round bales during the rainy season unless they are covered or unless they will be fed soon.
- Avoid placing bales in a row with the twine ends touching one another.
You can find more from Bruce Anderson at the University of Nebrask Beef Production Web site.