Hay isn't the cheapest of resources, yet it is one of the most important. Once the challenge of timely harvesting has been navigated, storage becomes the focus. Improper storage, or even just inefficient storage, can cost you thousands of dollars; whereas a few key investments can improve the usability of your hay each season.
If the hay is unwrapped and under a tarp, this may seem adequate. After all, so long as it's protected from the rain, what's the worst that can happen? If baled with more than 15% moisture the bales will produce heat, especially in the first 2-3 weeks after baling. So, if bales are to be stored under a tarp, it's essential that there is plenty of space between them to allow air to circulate. If possible, storing the hay on a raised platform is best to keep it from soaking up the moisture from the ground.
Wrapping hay is another option. Having individually wrapped bales can increase their longevity in comparison to unwrapped hay stored under a tarp. If you're leaving them out in the open, then it's better to store them on their ends (as this article shows) rather than on the round. It's normal for hay to sweat after being baled, and it can emit heat of up to 49 degrees Celsius. If bale temperatures reach 60 degrees Celsius or more, then the sugars start to caramelise, and the protein becomes degraded.
The best method of storing hay is in a barn or hay shed. The additional shelter reduces weathering, reduces dry matter loss, and the bales can be allowed proper ventilation to dry. Open-sided barns allow for great airflow and easy access, but individuals may want the security and added shelter of closed sides.
Getting the best of both worlds is easy. An open-sided barn makes it easy to access, which is great for loading and unloading, whilst also providing ventilation and protection. There are additional benefits to using an Alpine Buildings farm shed for hay storage beyond the obvious.
The warm, dry environments that make hay storage so ideal also make them the perfect place for animals looking for a home. Alpine Buildings' special no perch rafter design ensures that birds are not on the list of animals looking to make use of your hay barn. Having already explored the health hazards of giving birds a home in your barns or sheds, you'll understand why this is a huge bonus to your newfound hay shed.
Alpine Buildings offers many different kitset shed designs ideal for hay storage; although according to Farm & Ranch guide, a design with one open side is best. Included in the list of recommendations are:
– Open-sided buildings should be oriented from east to west to minimise sunlight exposure inside the building.
– Three-sided buildings should be oriented so that the open side faces away from the prevailing wind to minimise the amount of rain blown into the building.
– Keep hay storage buildings as open as possible in the peak of the roof to allow moisture to escape during hay drying.
– Consider stacking large round bales on their flat end rather than on their round side to increase the number of bales that can be stored.
– Eave height should be at least 4.5 metres, but make sure that your building is high enough for your needs.
If you're currently using a hay barn or shed, make sure it's free of leaks. Rainwater will leach valuable nutrients from affected bales and could increase mould growth.
To find the right hay barn or hay shed for your needs, download our brochure or request a chat with an Alpine Buildings team member to discuss your needs.