NORTH PLATTE, Neb. — Hay is a valuable commodity this year. So, as you bring in your round bales for winter storage and feeding, store them to minimize weather losses.
Hay stored outside will be damaged by rain, snow, wind, and ice this fall and winter. The average round bale may lose up to one fourth of its original nutrients during storage, but these losses can be reduced to less than 10 percent or so.
For instance, do you usually line up bales for easy access so the twine sides touch each other? Or do you stack your bales? If so, extra spoilage will occur where these bales touch because rain, snow, and ice will gather in spots where bales touch instead of running off. Research has shown that round bales stacked in a pyramid form will have greater dry matter losses compared bales butted end-to-end, cigar-like.
Does snow drift around your bales? Bales placed in east-west rows often have drifts on the south side. Hay next to fencelines or trees can get extra snow. As snow melts it soaks into bales or makes the ground muddy. Plus, the north side never gets any sun so it’s slow to dry. This year, line your bales up north-and-south for fewer drifts and faster drying as sunlight and prevailing winds hit both sides of the row.
Most important is the bottom of your bales. Always put bales on higher, well-drained ground so water drains away from them. Keep them out of terrace bottoms or other low spots. If necessary, use crushed rock, railroad ties, or even pallets to elevate bales to keep the bottoms dry. This also will reduce problems getting to your hay or getting it moved due to snow drifts or mud.
So, for outside storage, a single row of bales end to end, along with consideration for row orientation and the ground surface drainage, will be the best storage method.
— Jerry Volesky, Nebraska Extension
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