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Don’t throw away hay to improper storage

Hay is going to be more valuable than ever this year in light of the drought. For this reason, it is critical to maximize usable hay. Round bales are a popular means to harvest hay in many parts of the country. Proper round bale storage can make or break you. If your current storage method is allowing several inches of bale to rot, you might be surprised at how much hay is being wasted. The outer 4 to 6 inches, where most losses occur, make up a large percentage of the bale as shown in Table 1.

Table 1. Percentage of Bale in Outer Inches

Bale Diameter

Percentage of Bale in

Outer 4"

Outer 6"

4 ft.



5 ft.



6 ft.




Amount of loss depends on several factors including storage method, length of storage, rainfall, bale density and size. Changing the method of storage is the most practical way to decrease hay loss. Table 2 gives average losses for different storage methods.

Table 2. Hay Losses for Storage Methods

Storage Method

Percent Loss

Outside on Ground


Outside Covered


Outside Off-Ground


Hay Tarp


Inside Barn



Hay tarps are an attractive option for many producers because of low initial cost. They are especially popular for hay storage on rented land. Tarps come in many different sizes. Bales size and stacking method will determine tarp size needed and how many bales will fit under one tarp. Hay tarp prices range from $150 to $300 and tend to last from 1 to 5 years. Even if resources do not permit the use of a tarp, several changes can still be made to reduce storage losses outside. 

  • Select a well drained area

  • Get bales off the ground by using rock, poles, tires or pallets

  • Do not store under trees

  • Tightly place bales end to end in a north­-south row

  • Leave at least 3 ft between rows

  • Use individual bale wraps or bonnets

In summary, proper hay storage will reduce overall losses and reduce feeding costs. Make necessary storage changes now to maximize the amount of hay available later. CRYSTALYX® offers a complete line of economical protein and mineral/vitamin supplements ideal for augmenting stored hay for all types of livestock. For more information about these products and how they can fit into your current management system, contact your local CRYSTALYX® representative or visit www.crystalyx.com.