There are several ways to store your hay. In this article we look at each option and find out what type of hay storage is best for you to store your hay.
A hay shed has the lowest dry matter loss of any hay storage option and will also maintain higher nutrient content, digestibility and palatability.
While we recommend a three-sided open front hay shed to store your hay, even a roof only hay shed will provide better storage than a tarp or semi-permanent cover.
Other key advantages of a hay shed is its versatility and lifespan.
- A hay shed can be used to store other feed or to protect machinery in the off-season. This means you are always getting some sort of return from your investment.
- An Action hay shed has a long lifespan and there are minimal annual labour time and costs associated with a hay shed compared to more semi-permanent options.
- Although a hay shed is a fixed structure with higher short-term capital cost, it is a versatile investment and the market value of your shedded hay versus the market value of unshedded hay can quickly cover the costs.
Semi-permanent hay storage
A semi-permanent option like tarpaulin has the advantage of being relocatable and can be used as either a cover or a liner.
However, compared to a hay shed tarpaulins have a higher dry matter loss. This is because the tarps can be loosened by the wind and have rainfall collect on them.
Exposure to the sun and wildlife can reduce the lifespan and effectiveness of the tarp. Any damage to the tarp increases the risk of hay spoilage.
Uncovered hay has the highest dry matter loss – up to 50% more than permanent structures. This is worsened in areas with high rainfall, wind and humidity.
Arid and low-rainfall areas will see the least amount of hay loss from spoilage, but it only takes a single downpour to wipe out any cost savings.
Hay sheds versus tarps
Hay bale covers, or tarps, are a just-the-basics options for covering your hay and are ineffective for long-term storage. Although they protect your hay from the weather to a degree, their open sides make spoilage an issue, particularly in damp areas.
On the other hand, an open front hay shed on a properly prepared site with good drainage will ensure that your hay will come out of the shed the same condition as it goes in.
When making your decision, compare the costs, lifetime, versatility and the convenience of your storage options.