Uncovered outdoor storage of round bales is a reality for many dairy and beef farmers. The following tips can help optimize outdoor hay storage and limit feed losses, spoilage, and quality issues caused by exposure to the elements.
- Use net wrap. The initial investment of net wrap pays off in the long run, research shows. Thanks to their superior water-shedding abilities, net-wrapped bales have 30% less dry matter losses than their twine-wrapped counterparts.
- Density matters. Dense, well-formed bales not only shed water better, but also sag less. This reduces bale-to-soil contact and lessens losses due to moisture wicking.
- Ground Cover. Further prevent moisture wicking by getting the bales off the ground. Bales can be elevated on wooden pallets, fence posts or railroad ties, or a layer of gravel.
- Location, location, location. Be sure to select an ideal storage location – one that gets sunlight, is away from trees, is well drained, and promotes air movement and drying.
- Stack ‘em tight. Bales should be stacked end-to-end to reduce spoilage. If stacked on a slope, bale rows should run up and down the slope to allow optimal drainage.
- Allow air flow. Leave at least 3 feet between rows for optimal air circulation.
While actual losses will depend on a variety of factors (precipitation, temperature and humidity, forage type, storage duration, etc.), a well-thought out storage plan will help preserve your feed ingredients.