Keep expensive hay in the pink by storing it properly.
• Store it under cover in a well-ventilated building that doesn’t leak. Due to the risk of feeding a barn fire, try not to store it in or near a building that houses livestock, even though it’s tempting to use existing overhead space as a hayloft. If you can’t store your hay in a separate building, the next best thing is to keep only small amounts of hay in the barn at one time, to help reduce the risk of barn fires.
• Choose a building in an elevated, well-drained area so that stored hay doesn’t soak up moisture from wet soil or standing water. If your storage area is open on one or more sides, or it’s a shed with only a roof, cover the hay with a tarp to keep out weather and light. Sunlight bleaches hay, causing it to lose as much as 20 % of its nutritional value, especially protein and vitamin A.
• If you can get a good deal on hay but don’t have a place to store it, consider buying an inexpensive storage shed from an outlet like Walmart. A 10 x 10 x 8 shed can keep up to 50 bales of hay out of the weather. Enclose it with tarps for added protection.
• Don’t stack hay on bare ground or on concrete floors. Moisture will wick up through the bottom tiers, ruining the hay. Instead, stack hay atop telephone poles, wooden pallets, or old tires.
• Don’t stack new hay in front of older bales. Pull the old bales to the front and feed those first.
• When stacking hay, stack the first tier of bales all pointing in the same direction. Then stack the second layer perpendicular to the first layer so that if the first layer of bales is pointing east and west, the second layer of bales points north and south. Continue alternating layers. This locks the stack in place and makes it more stable.
• Outdoors, cover well dried, not damp, stacked hay with tarps, securing the tarps in place with strong tie-downs. A sloped top created by pyramiding the final layers sheds snow and rain better than a flat one. When covering hay use strong, sturdy tarps. If you have to use more than one tarp to cover the stack, overlap them by 3 to 5 feet to prevent water from seeping in where the tarps meet. Check tarps on an ongoing basis to make sure they’re securely tied down.
• Large bales stored outside are prone to spoilage; store them under cover if you can. The outer 4 inch layer of a 6 foot diameter round bale contains about 25 % of total bale volume. Studies indicate that outdoor storage losses range between 5 % to 35 % depending on the amount of precipitation, storage site location, and original condition of the bale. Storage losses are usually reduced by approximately 2/3 with indoor storage.
• It’s best to place round bales so there is at least 1 foot of air space on all sides to allow for circulation. Never store bales under trees; storing hay in damp, shaded environments prevents the sun from drying the hay after a rain and encourages the bottom of the bales to rot.
• Choose densely packed large round bales put up in plastic or net wrap or using plastic twine; these reduce bale sag and help maintain bale shape.
– An excerpt from Horse Tips & Tricks; More Than 400 Ways to Care for Your Horse Better, Safer, Faster, Cheaper, by Sue Weaver