Your round bales are up and it’s time to move hay off the field into storage. If not stored properly, producers can suffer massive losses in nutritional content of forage.

In a perfect world these bales would be stored inside a barn.

“It doesn’t matter how you stack them, bales stored under a roof retain more nutrients,” says University of Missouri Extension Forage Specialist Dr. Robert Kallenbach. “Just be careful not to stack bales directly against closed sides of a barn, because they will bulge out.”

But for most producers, the majority of hay crop will get stored outside.

“No. 1 thing about doing a good job at storing bales outside is keeping them up off the ground,” he says.

While some producers may have the resources to stack hay on pallets, one of the most sustainable ways is to build a hay storage area.

“Soil will be built up in a way to provide good drainage and then covered in gravel or chat. Typically a foot of chat is adequate so that if water does fall in the area, it can drain through the gravel away from the storage area,” Kallenbach says. “Once bales are up off the ground, the next best thing to do is to cover them with tarps.”

Kallenbach says it’s best for producers to keep the size of their tarps in mind if they are building hay pyramids; that way they can be sure hay will have adequate coverage.

Barn stored = 5 percent storage loss

Outside storage area and tarped = less than 10 percent storage loss

Outside storage area and uncovered = 15 to 20 percent storage loss

On the soil and uncovered = 30 percent storage loss

For more information on how to maximize your storage potential, check out the April issue of Drovers/CattleNetwork.