Storing hay inside

Protect your valuable hay and reduce dry matter losses by storing it under cover such as in a barn or shed. The structure doesn’t have to have sides, but it does need a watertight roof. Leaks from holes overhead can cause moldy hay, and the moisture also creates a risk for combustion and fire.

Krishona Martinson is an extension equine specialist at the University of Minnesota. She says you should also consider what the hay is sitting on because moisture can wick up from the bottom. One option is to stack the bales on pallets. But whatever you decide, make sure there is good circulation around the hay bales.

"There’s issues with the hay becoming dusty. The hay still needs to breathe. I understand you need to be efficient with stacking because of space, but if you can’t even wedge your little hand in between the stacks of hay, it’s too tight," says Martinson. "The hay can be obviously touching if you have a nice, good pile, but you should be able to put your hand between the stacked bales."

Over time as you gather bales for feeding, she recommends using the oldest hay first. 

"But if hay is baled and stored properly, it can actually last indefinitely with really minimal changes and nutritive value. The changes that we see happen right at the time of harvest," she says. "But because we have distinct seasons, I still like to see people using hay within two years. And most horse owners would love the luxury of having a two-year hay supply."

Critter-proof the area the best you can and keep an eye out for signs of rodents that might contaminate your hay. The waste they produce and their chewing on twine can create a mess. Having a cat, dog, or even a snake around can be a big help.

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