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Indoor is Ideal: Store Eff ectively in Hay Barns Indoor storage in a hay barn means you’ll avoid a lot of weather damage

to bales. It’s the best way to preserve the quality of your hay and prevent spoilage. T e key to keeping bales in top condition in a structure like a pole barn or steel and fabric structure is to allow air space between bales and ceiling and walls. If your structure has a dirt fl oor, you’ll want to keep your bales from

contacting the dirt. If you are planning to build a hay barn, make sure it goes where the ground is high and dry. Put some thought into how your structure should be oriented in relation- ship other buildings, fences and lane-ways. If the build- ing will be open-ended or have large doors, position it so openings are away from the direction of the prevailing winds and direct sunlight. If your structure does have an open end, the hay nearest to the opening will be subject to sun and moisture damage, but the bulk of your store will be protected. Position the structure so that there is easy access for tractors and wagons, but for fi re safety, away from your actual stable. Hay stacked against metal can deteriorate due to condensation. Pallets


can be used as baffl es between metal walls and hay, providing a space for air movement. Even if carefully piled to give some airspace, the stack can sag. Pallets can prevent this from happening. Bales need airspace along the top of the stack too. Leave at least two feet between the top of the bales and the roof for ventilation. Roofs of hay barns need to be repaired for leaks to prevent rot en spots on the bales beneath.

Hay exposed to the el- ements can lose nutri- ent content, as this oat straw demonstrates. If your structure has an open end, the hay nearest to the opening will be subject to sun and moisture damage, but the bulk of your store will be protected. Photo by Lupe Nealt

Keep Your Bottom Dry—Avoid Moisture Absorption from the Ground Farmers of yesteryear employed a number of ingenious methods to

keep hay dry, both from the top and bot om. During the Edwardian Era, farmers piled their loose hay atop mushroom shaped cement pillars. T ese cement pillars were arranged in a grid, and served two purposes. T ey kept the hay off the ground where it could be spoiled by dirt and damp, and the shape of the pillars discouraged rodents from climbing up to eat and nest in the hay. It would be an interesting experiment to build some-

thing similar to pile bales on. But wooden pallets, which can oſt en be procured for free, can serve a similar pur- pose. Although the hay won’t be out of reach of rodents, piling your hay on a layer of pallets can provide enough air space to prevent the hay from sit ing in the dirt or cement or absorbing moisture from the ground. In freezing conditions, they also prevent the bales from freezing to the ground or fl oor. When choosing pallets avoid any made with pressure-treated wood that could leach contaminants into the hay, and when handling them be careful of hazards like splintered wood and exposed nails.


Explore Outdoor Storage Options Whether you buy small or large bales, stacking them so rain-

water drains off will prevent some but not all water damage. How you stack your round-baled hay outdoors will depend upon what machinery you have. You don’t want to stack higher than your tractor and bale prong can safely reach and if you don’t have a tractor, you’ll need to stack so you can roll bales easily by hand. T is means without a tractor you’ll probably only stack round bales two high and placed so you can easily roll the top bale off without it get ing wedged into the bales below. Stack- ing the bales into a triangular or pyramid shaped pile also makes it easier to cover the bales with tarps. If you live in an area with snowy winters, be sure to stack your hay away from tree lines and fences that may cause snow to driſt in around your bales. While it’s possible to stack hay to minimize weather damage,


tarps provide the best protection if you don’t actually have a roof. Pallets, logs or tires piled on top of your hay will prevent your tarp from causing condensation and freezing to the bales in winter. Use tires or other heavy objects to anchor your tarp along the bot om so the wind can’t pick it up. Other outdoor storage options are shipping containers and portable garages. It is possible to buy wrapped round bales, but a lot of the hay is lost because of condensation within the plastic. Mold and botulism can become a problem.


Before you stack hay in your barn, be sure it is dry. Hay should be baled at 14% moisture or less. In fact, 12% is the ideal moisture content for bales off of the fi eld. Higher and you’ll lose protein and vitamin content along with the likelihood of it molding and heating. Hay that is 20% moisture or higher is a fi re hazard. Photo by Lupe Nealt

Barn cat on duty! A good mouser can reduce the number of uninvited guests in your hay stor- age area. Photo by Bobbie Jo Weber

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