Hay is one of the most preferred animal feeds. And for the right reasons.
One, it can last for many months without going bad.
Second, the fact that you can store it in bales makes it possible to stock tons of them in your barn.
So, How Long Does Hay Last in A Barn?
Hay can last for up to three years after harvest. Under ideal storage conditions, it can last even longer than that.
Four Ways to Make Hay Last Longer
1. Store It Off the Ground
Pests can attack hay and cause massive destruction.
A way of preventing this is to store them on raised ground.
Do not let it contact soil since pests like termites will access it.
Termites can cause profound destruction of hay. And within no time, they will turn their attention to your barn.
If you reside in a place that snows and rains often, the environment can quickly become wet and harm your grass from the bottom.
Wet hay may no longer be valuable. It starts to rot.
Unique barns are designed with raised platforms for the storage of hay.
You can improvise more outlets if you have more hay.
Wooden pallets are some of the most ordinary materials for this job.
It will keep it safe from weather elements and out of reach of pests.
2. Change Your Calving Seasons
Sounds odd, right? The truth is that you can change your calving seasons to time less complicated seasons of the year.
And it is easier said than done. Many calf producers choose a certain period of the year for several reasons.
It proves, for instance, much easier to graze pregnant cows in the winter than a lactating ones.
The point is to time your calving season away from trying conditions of the year that might demand more hay stocks.
Of course, lactating animals eat a lot compared to those that are not. This idea will prolong the durability of your hay, and you may not need to add some more soon.
3. Invest in Animals That Match Your Climatic and Environmental Conditions
Some animals consume more hay under certain climatic conditions.
Animals well adapted to cold conditions have adapted to utilizing the small available resources to sustain themselves.
And they do pretty well. Bringing in an animal not adapted to such needs means you are in for a bumpy ride.
You will require to feed it with more hay to aid in its metabolism and sustain them under such extremes.
4. Proper Management of Pastures and Rangelands Is Key
Hay can be a supplement if you have grazing fields and pastures. And by this, we do not mean you graze your animals more intensively.
All you need to do is ration whatever you are already growing. Pick more grazing days to ensure that your animals consume less hay.
It will make sure that they last even longer to sustain you through tough months of the year.
Six Ways to Store Hay
1. Use Tarps to Keep Off Moisture
Covering hay with a protective material ensures that it does not come in contact with water and moisture.
One of the most preferred materials is canvas tarps. You can also use a plastic covering. Usually, the plastic coating is used for plant protection in gardens.
It will serve the same purpose for your hay by keeping moisture at bay.
Ensure that you cover the hay carefully. The material you use should cover every inch.
Tie it firmly to keep it in place.
The above technique is an ideal alternative that works well for many climatic zones.
However, if you live in a highly humid area, you might need a more formidable material to combat the moisture issue.
Tarps can hold moisture in the hay and become even more problematic. If it becomes a menace, consider getting long-term solutions.
2. Use Plastic Hay Crates
Another excellent idea is to store hay in plastic hay crates.
They are safe and will keep it in dry and good conditions for a long time. Plastic hay crates are available in different sizes. They all offer perfect storage space.
You will have to package your hay in bales to fit the dimensions of hay crates at your disposal.
Once packed, keep the loaded hay crates organized for easy access when you need them.
It will also keep them from getting wet. Note that you can still use a plastic or canvas tarp to cover the hay crates. It will add more protection against mold and moisture.
3. Dry The Hay Before Storage
Before stacking hay, ensure that it is scorched. Storing it with moisture will mean one thing.
Your hay will begin to rot, and before you realize it, you will lose a couple of bundles.
Also, dumb hay decomposes with time. It can generate enough heat to burn your barn in severe cases.
Check all your newly baled hay for any signs of molds and must. You can even break open a couple of them to ascertain that they are dehydrated before storage.
Weight is a crucial indicator of any signs of decomposition. Heavier bales can indicate a rotten bale.
4. Allow Air Circulation On the Hay
It would help if you kept your hay aerated.
Air does not only keep them dry but also fresh for future consumption.
Use barn lofts since they are constructed with spaces between the boards.
The openings allow for air circulation. Another idea is to pack hay in many small bundles rather making enormous piles. Small bundles give room for airflow.
5. Check Your Hay for Any Sign of Pests
If you notice that your hay has been infested by pests such as rats, raccoons, and mice, act quickly and find a solution to keep them off the barn.
You can invest in traps to minimize their population.
Persistent cases call for wildlife relocation intervention. Of course, you may not successfully create an animal-free barn, but you can reduce their numbers.
6. Feed Your Animals with Old Hay First
Leave the freshly delivered hay in the barn and start with the old ones.
There is every chance that the old hay is almost going wrong, and you want to make use of them when they are still fresh.
How long your hay will last depends on storage conditions.
Apply all the tips we have covered to ensure that your hay is always fresh and good for your animals.