Reducing Storage Quality Losses

 Knowledge Nuggets | Fact Sheets | Research Papers

Knowledge Nuggets

  • Even the best shed or covered storage conditions allow about 5 percent of the hay's dry matter to be lost after one year. Most nutrients maintain nearly constant concentrations when hay is properly stored, although carotene (provitamin A) concentration declines rapidly.
  • Losses of dry matter and quality can be considerable when hay is stored too wet. These losses are caused by heating from moisture above 20 to 22 percent. Grass hay can be baled at higher moisture than legume hay.
  • Hay stored outdoors is subject to dry matter losses from weathering as well as reductions in feeding value by 15 to 25 percent.
  • Research has shown that storing bales on a well drained, 4-6 in. coarse rock base versus the ground reduces the weathered portion from 23 to 11 percent of the original bale weight.
  • Weathering losses are greatly influenced by rainfall. The higher rainfall in the northern parts of Western Canada cause more weathering loss than in the drier southern parts.
  • To reduce storage losses, be sure the bales are dense and evenly formed. This allows rainfall to run off rather than settle in depressions and soak into the stack. Store bales with air spaces between bales to allow drying after rain.
  • A dense bale will sag less and have less surface area in contact with the ground. A dense surface layer will shed more water.
  • Ample twine reduces bale sag and provides a tight, smooth surface. Plastic twine resists weathering, insects and rodents better than natural fiber twines. Twine should be wound tight and spaced six to10 inches apart for best bale storage.
  • Position large round bales end-to-end in long lines with breathing space between bales. Orient the line northwest to southeast to allow prevailing winds to blow snow past the bales and minimize drifting and resulting moisture soaking into the bales. Put the stem-down side of the bale to the north side of the line. The stem-down side tends to shed rain and snow better than the stem-up side. The stem-up side will then receive more sun to provide some melting and drying to lessen spoilage.
  • If more than one line of bales is needed, space adjacent lines at least 10 ft. apart. This will minimize snow buildup between rows and allow the sun to reach the back row.
  • Stacking large round bales without covering usually increases losses. Stacking uncovered bales tends to trap moisture and limits drying action from exposure to the sun and wind. Be sure to cover bales that you have stacked.
  • Studies have shown outdoor storage losses range between five and 35 percent depending on the amount of precipitation, storage site location, and original condition of the bale. Storage losses are usually reduced by approximately two-thirds with indoor storage and by one-half with good plastic covering outdoors.
Fact Sheets

Big Bale Hay Storage - available in PDF format

Harvesting and Preserving Hay Crop Silage

How to Maintain Forage Quality during Harvest and Storage

Large Round Bale Hay Storage - available in PDF format

Maintaining Quality in Round Bale Silage

Making and Storing Quality Hay

Management Tips for Round Bale Hay Harvesting, Moving, and Storage

Net Wrap or Twine?

Preventing Silage Storage Losses - available in PDF format

Round Bale Hay Storage - available in PDF format only

Will a hayshed pay?

Research Papers

Let us know of good research papers on this subject.
  For more information about the content of this document, contact Grant Lastiwka.
This document is maintained by Mary Ann Nelson.
This information published to the web on October 6, 2003.
Last Reviewed/Revised on October 26, 2017.

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