Harvesting baled hay is hard work…not to mention all of the fuel, equipment, labor, and seed expenses it rings up. Then comes the time and expense of hauling all the bales to storage. Now imagine going through your stored big hay bales and discarding one out of every ten of them. This idea may not be as unrealistic (or crazy) as you think.
In his article “Big bale storage losses,” Craig Saxe takes a look at the impact inadequate bale storage can have on hay quantities and qualities. Saxe helps put storage loss into perspective by providing this simple scenario: A producer stores his hay outside and experiences a storage loss of 10 percent.
Although this may sound like a fairy reasonable percentage, it means that for every ten bales of hay harvested, there is only the equivalent of nine bales to feed.
With all of the bale storage options out there, how do you pick the best one for your operation? Well, one factor to consider is dry matter loss which is ultimately determined by hay moisture, temperature, and length of time hay is exposed to these conditions.
Here are some practices that can help minimize dry matter loss during big bale storage:
- Store bales on the best well-drained surface at your disposal.
- Avoid contact with moist soil, elevating bales when possible.
- Stack round bales end to end.
- Do not stack unprotected bales.
- Choose net wrapping instead of twine.
- Place bales in a sunny area where runoff passes between rows.
- If storing unprotected, strive to make larger-sized bales.
In addition to dry matter, there are many other factors that should be considered when selecting a storage method. These factors include labor and machinery costs as well as the locations of hay fields, storage sites, and feeding sites.
According to Saxe, there is no single “best” storage method across the board. It probably goes without saying that stored bales benefit from some type of protection. Beyond that, individual farms should analyze each storage option to determine which one is the best fit for their operation.
Source: “Big bale storage losses” article by Craig Saxe. Progressive Forage Grower, April 1, 2011, Vol. 12 Issue 4.