Hay is used to feed cattle, horses, sheep, goats, or even rabbits and pigs when they are not able to graze on the pasture. This may be due to limited land or resources or harsh weather conditions. In either case, at the end of the season it’s time to cut, dry, and store any grasses or hay used to feed animals throughout the year. Here’s everything you need to know to grow, harvest, dry, and store hay for the winter using hay covers.
How To Make Hay
Haymaking is the process of cutting, drying, collecting, processing, and storing hay. Though the methods may vary by region, the basic tenets of haymaking remain the same. As grasses and legumes reach maturity, cut them by hand or by machinery. The hay then remains on the ground as it dries under the sun over a period of several days. Some haymakers may wish to turn the hay with a rake or other equipment halfway through the drying process so as to dry both sides evenly.
How To Protect Hay
Once the hay has dried, it is collected with a rake or other machinery then balled into stacks or bales. Smaller stacks and bales may be beneficial to those working by hand, though larger bales are preferred. This is because the primary goal of baling hay it to keep moisture out. Any kind of precipitation or ground moisture that makes its way onto a bale of hay can completely destroy it. Water completely washes away the nutritional value of hay and also causes rot and mold to form. This is far from ideal.
In the battle against moisture, the bigger the hay bale, the better. Not to mention, you’ll want the stacks or bales to be as tightly compressed as possible so that if water does make it onto the surface of the hay, it doesn’t make its way into the entire bale. For this reason, even though round bales can be more difficult to transport, they are often the preferred option because they compress hay more tightly. If you don’t have a baler to accomplish this task, you may prefer loose hay stacking.
How To Store Hay
Once you’ve chosen your desired baling method, you’ll need to transport and store your hay for the winter. Transport small stacks with a pickup truck, and larger bales with a tractor or trailer. In any case, the bales must be transported to a location where they can remain dry—this being the primary goal—throughout the winter months. Though there are several ways to store hay, a combination of methods is usually the best bet.
The Importance of Hay Covers
Silos, sheds, and carports keep hay free from rain, snow, sleet, and other precipitation methods that may threaten your bales. However, outdoor storage methods do not protect hay from runoff or ground moisture. For this reason, use ground cover such as gravel or pallet wood to keep your bales elevated and off the ground. From there you’ll need to cover your bales with waterproof hay covers. Be aware that all of this is for naught if the hay was not completely dry before you baled it—no one wants to ruin their hay from within!
Not only is hay highly susceptible to moisture, but it is also a fire hazard. To properly protect hay from moisture and fire hay use covers. Use tarps to cover an entire stack of bales, then secure the tarps using tie-downs. Make sure that the stacks form a pyramid shape so that if any water drips onto the tarp, it can easily roll of the tarp and onto the floor without ever reaching the hay. Tarps should be strong, study, and free of any imperfections or tears.
BTL Liners makes heavy duty polyethylene hay covers with reinforced hems, grommets, and D-rings guaranteed to keep your hay dry throughout the winter season. Keep your animals well-fed all year long without worry that you’re harvest will be destroyed by water or fire. Shop our selection of hay covers or contact us for more information.