There are several management considerations regarding hay storage and reducing feed loss, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service beef cattle specialist.
Dr. Stephen Hammack, AgriLife Extension beef cattle specialist emeritus, Stephenville, shared his perspective – as well as AgriLife Extension beef cattle specialist Dr. Jason Banta’s research options – for producers to consider at the recent Blackland Income Growth Conference held in Waco.
First, consider how round baled hay is harvested.
“There’s generally less loss when net wrapped versus twine wrapped,” Hammack said. “The tighter they (the bales) are, the less the loss.”
Precipitation is also a big factor in loss, Hammack said.
“The far eastern part of Texas is going to have more than the west,” he said.
According to research conducted at Louisiana State University, there was 3 percent loss over a 280-day period when round bales were stored in a pole barn, 9 percent when stored under a tarp, and 15 percent loss when left outside with no protection.
“You want to minimize ground contact,” Hammack said. “You can use pallets, tires, a rock pad or store bales in a barn. You also want to store in a sunny location with a breeze. You don’t want to store in shade because the bales will take longer to dry out after a rain, leading to increased losses.”
Hammack recommends not storing bales side by side, but rather end to end. A plastic tarp covering also helps protect the bales and it prevents water not to penetrate the top of the bale and absorb.
“A good way to keep those bales off the ground is to use old telephone poles,” he said.
There are several methods that can be used to eliminate feeding waste. Hammack said the best way is to restrict intake by using hay rings or rolling out the hay.
“You want to require the cattle to clean up the hay before feeding any more,” he said. “You can waste a lot of money on hay or save a lot of money with different storage and feeding methods.”