Hay stacks are a key part of many fall and holiday activities, from providing extra seats at outdoor events to being the perfect place for a festive photo op. But if they’re not properly cared for, hay stacks can quickly become an eyesore or even a safety hazard. Many people don’t realize that hay is a perishable item, and without the right care it can start to rot and attract pests. A study by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln found that hay starts to lose its nutritional value within 48 hours of being cut. To help you get the most out of your hay stacks this fall, here are five tips for preserving them:
1. Choose the Right Location
Hay is best stored in a dry, well-ventilated area. The USDA suggests using hay bales in a well-protected, elevated area away from mud and windows, as they will be exposed to the most rain. If you can’t find an appropriate spot to store the hay, it’s recommended to leave it out in an open area instead of shipping it off to farms and barns farther away. If it they are fresh hay bales you can store them in a shaded area until you decide your next steps. Just don’t leave them out for long as they can go bad and you would have to burn your hay bales. You may also consider storing hay indoors with proper ventilation. In addition, the hay should be stored in a place where it won’t be exposed to direct sunlight or other sources of heat and moisture.
2. Keep it Covered
Once you’ve found the perfect location for your hay, it’s important to keep it covered. This will protect it from the elements and help it retain its moisture content. If the hay is stored outdoors, cover it with a tarp or other waterproof material. If you’re storing the hay indoors, make sure to cover it with a breathable fabric to allow airflow. A study published in the Journal of Agricultural Engineering found that covering hay with a tarp can increase its longevity by up to 50%. Hay tarps are specifically designed to protect hay from the elements and are available in a variety of sizes to fit your needs. Hay tarps keep your hay bales from direct sunlight and help from drying them out. Round bales are recommended to keep out in the field but required to have enough circulation so they don’t rot.
3. Monitor the Temperature and Humidity
It’s important to monitor the temperature and humidity of the area where the hay is being stored. The ideal temperature for storing hay is between 32-40 degrees Fahrenheit, with a humidity level of 60-70%. If the temperature or humidity gets too high, the hay will start to sweat and mold. If the temperature gets too low, the hay will become dry and brittle. To help maintain the ideal conditions, use a fan to circulate air and a hygrometer to monitor the humidity. If you decided to store your hay bales in a tight place leave enough room for air circulation to get around. If you are storing these bales in a warehouse it is better to make sure your air conditioner is working correct because any slight change can cause your hay bales to rot. The only bales to be kept outside would be round bales since they need the circulation. You can also add moisture to the air with a humidifier, but be careful not to overdo it as this can lead to mold growth.
4. Use Hay Preservatives
There are a variety of hay preservatives available on the market that can help extend the life of your hay. These products work by inhibiting mold growth and preventing the hay from drying out. Mold is really bad to live with and can cause many respiratory issues in the long run. Some businesses can even be sued if they have found to be liable for having mold in their hay stacks and have employees sit or breath in the mold for long periods of time. Many hay preservatives are available as powders or liquids and can be added to the hay before or after it’s been baled. It’s important to follow the manufacturer’s instructions when using hay preservatives, as using too much or too little can reduce their effectiveness. Also, be sure to store the hay preservative in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight.
5. Keep an Eye on the Hay
Even with the best care, hay will eventually start to deteriorate. It’s important to check on the hay regularly and remove any bales that show signs of mold or rot. These bales should be disposed of properly to avoid contaminating the rest of the hay. If you notice any pests in the hay, such as mice or insects, take immediate action to remove them. Many people fail to realize how perishable hay is, thus leading to hay that’s wasted and unusable. You can decided to burn these hay bales since they are no use.
These are just a few tips to help you preserve your hay this fall. By taking the time to properly store and care for your hay, you’ll be able to make it last longer and keep your animals healthy and well-fed all winter long. Also, don’t forget to hay while the sun shines. This will help your hay last even longer.
With Halloween and fall season right around the corner there will be plenty of businesses and shops looking to buy stacks of hay to decorate their store fronts or create pumpkin patches for families. With enough hay stacks preserved you can make a good amount of profit during this upcoming season. Everyone loves taking pictures at the pumpkin patch and small towns enjoy decorating their storefronts and getting into the Halloween spirit. You should take every precaution to preserve your hay bales in order to be able to provide to your farm animals and keep business going.