Shortages Making Proper Hay Storage Even More Important
It is been a tough year on hay growers. Thanks to an unusually wet spring and summer, yields for the year are down considerably. Customers are having an equally hard time finding the hay they need for livestock. Unfortunately, things could get even worse at the end of the growing season. There may not be enough hay to go around this winter.
For growers, it is more important than ever to make sure their hay is properly stored. They cannot afford to lose any of their crop over the winter. Customers will be relying on them to provide as much hay as they possibly can, supplementing where they have to with other food sources.
Getting Hay Under Cover
Growers make a point of getting hay baled and under cover before the first frost of winter. Some growers store their hay in barns while others erect temporary storage shelters. Still others prefer a more simple solution: they cover stacks with hay tarps secured to the ground with stakes or held in place with used tires. Regardless of the storage method, the point is to keep the hay from getting wet.
Moisture content is always a concern for stored hay. If hay is allowed to completely dry out, it loses much of its nutritional value. It is also not very appetizing to cattle. If it gets too wet though, there are bigger problems. Excess moisture promotes mold, algae, and bacteria growth. It can also lead to spontaneous combustion as bacteria in the deepest recesses of a stack reproduce and generate heat.
The goal of keeping harvested hay under cover is to prevent any further moisture from accumulating in the bales. But growers don’t want the hay to be too dry when it’s put into storage. So they check and maintain acceptable moisture levels with a device known as a moisture tester.
A moisture tester is built with a probe that gets inserted directly into a bale of hay. The machine sends an electrical current into the hay, via the probe, and then measures how quickly it returns. This tells the grower how much moisture is in the bale.
Alternative Food Sources
Farmers prefer to allow their cattle to feed on grasses and green plants in the pasture. However, they do turn to alternative food sources, like hay, during the winter months. They may have to look elsewhere this winter. If there isn’t enough hay to go around, they might have to look at corn stalks, corn silage, and other seasonal grasses typically harvested in the fall.
If there is any good news, it is the fact that autumn hay harvests may be closer to seasonal norms thanks to some drier weather in the Midwest. Better weather should also make for a good supply of those seasonal grasses. Perhaps between the two, farmers will be able to get what they need without having to rely too much on supplemental food.
In the meantime, growers are starting to think about their plans for winter storage. They can turn to suppliers like Ohio-based Mytee Products for hay tarps, temporary storage buildings, moisture testers, and everything else they need.
It has been a tough year so far for both hay growers and farmers who rely on that hay to feed their animals. Let’s hope the ride isn’t too bumpy for either group this winter. Growers will hopefully be able to minimize their losses with proper storage techniques while seasonal grasses and a more normal autumn hay harvest increase supply. With any luck, next year’s growing season will be a lot more favorable.