Each harvest season brings concerns regarding storage options for hay. Indeed, producers need to find ways to prevent shrink losses in their bunkers and storage systems. Hay storage losses are around 5% when it is harvested at 15% moisture and stored under dry conditions. Stored forages provide essential nutrients for livestock when pastures are inadequate and are a consistent feed supply for dairies, sheep flocks, cow/calf producers, and beef feedlots. However, some of these nutrients can be lost if forages are not stored properly.
Types of Storage Losses
Stored forage can be subjected to dry matter and quality losses. Losses of dry hay stored inside a barn are usually not a concern, however, even when barn-stored, losses tend to increase when its moisture exceeds 20%. Generally, each step in the forage-preservation process (i.e., mowing, ranking, chopping, baling, storing, and unloading) will likely cause losses of forage dry matter. Losses can either be mechanical or biological. During hay-making, most of the losses are mechanical or weather damage. When putting up silage however, most losses occur during the storage and feed-out stages. Round bales are usually subjected to greater losses than small rectangular bales because between baling and feed-out they tend to remain outside
Factors Affecting Outside Storage Losses
Some of the most important factors relating the value of outside storage losses are:
How to Minimize Storage Losses
|Alfalfa cut at pre-bud or early bud||Higher forage quality, lower yield|
|Alfalfa cut at bloom stage||Higher yielding but lower quality|
|Mow forage early in day||Allow full day to dry (less respiration loss and faster drop in moisture)|
|Form into wide swath||Increase drying rate|
|Rake at 40-50% moisture content||Increase drying rate|
|Bailing moisture levels||Hay in small bales should be at or below 20% moisture, hay in round bales at 18%, and hay in large bales at 16% moisture when baled.|
|Store hay under cover||Inhibits mold and browning|
There are many aspects to consider for hay storage. Barn storage is usually considered to be the best method but sometimes it’s not feasible for producers. Hay stored outside has usually more spoilage and is less palatable than the one stored inside. No matter what type of storage and feeding methods are used, some losses are always possible. However by following the recommended storage methods, and careful handling, losses can be minimized saving livestock producer’s time and money.
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