Limit Forage Losses in Storing, Feeding Hay

About 45% of the total bale is in the outer 9 inches, which are the most vulnerable to weathering.

Humphrey said ideally bales should be stored inside or covered. Many producers do not have the facilities to store all of their bales under a roof.

There are practices producers can do to reduce hay waste if bales are stored outside, he said.

Bales should be stacked end-to-end. Open-faced bales receive damage from sunlight and precipitation on the two exposed ends, he said. As spoilage occurs, bales flatten and squat closer to the ground, which increases the amount of surface exposed to moisture.

If hay has to sit outside, bales stored on damp soils flatten more easily and spoil faster than properly stored bales, according to Charles Ellis, MU Extension agricultural engineering specialist. Bales should be stored away from trees and in a spot which is sunny with a breeze.

Store bales end-to-end on elevated ground that is well-drained. The round sides of the bale should not touch each other and leave about 3 feet between rows of bales, he said.

When feeding forage, there are different ways to limit waste. Studies from the MU Forage Systems Research Center show that feeding in bale rings reduces the waste.

All bale rings, however, are not created equally. Various studies show that open rings have 20% waste, compared to 5% for cone rings.

Some producers will feed round bales by unrolling the bales. This method has about 43% waste with the advantage that aggressive cows can be spaced away from more timid cows attempting to get at the hay.

Another factor to consider when feeding hay is to feed hay in well-drained areas. In addition, MU also recommends feeding forage in small amounts to eliminate waste.

We do not have a hay shed on our farm, although that would certainly be something I would like to have someday. In recent years we have accumulated enough old tires that we can set most of our bales on them to keep the moisture out of the bales.

We have a couple bale rings and couple portable hay feeders we utilize to feed hay. One of the portable feeders has a liner on the inside to feed silage or in our case chopped hay.

Over the years we have found grinding our hay and using these more efficient hay feeders help us to limit the amount of hay the cows are wasting. It would be nice to eliminate all forage waste, but that really is not possible.

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