Storing hay correctly is essential to maintain its quality and preventing potential hazards like mould, fires, and nutritional degradation. If hay isn’t stored properly, it will lose its nutritional value, which can be harmful to your horse’s health and well-being. Plus, if hay is contaminated with mould, it can result in lots of wastage, resulting in you losing a large amount of the investment you’ve made on buying quality hay for your horse.
Here are six tips to help you store hay properly:
- Choose a suitable location
- Use a proper storage structure
- Elevate and insulate
- Properly stack bales
- Monitor moisture levels
- Rotate stock
- Regular inspections
Now let’s have a look at each of these points in detail.
Choose a suitable location
Select a well-drained, elevated area for storing hay. Avoid low-lying spots prone to flooding or excess moisture, as they can lead to mould growth. Ideally, the storage area should have good air circulation and be shielded from direct sunlight to prevent nutritional degradation.
Use a proper storage structure
If possible, use a dedicated hay barn or shed to store your hay. These structures offer protection from the elements, reducing the risk of moisture exposure and sun damage. If using a temporary storage solution like tarps or outdoor stacks, ensure the hay is elevated off the ground and adequately covered.
Elevate and insulate
Place the hay on pallets or a raised surface to prevent direct contact with the ground. This reduces the risk of moisture wicking up from the ground and causing mould. Additionally, insulating the walls and roof of the storage structure can help regulate temperature and humidity, keeping the hay in better condition.
Properly stack bales
Stack bales in a way that allows for proper air circulation. Avoid tightly packed stacks that could trap moisture and lead to mould. Leave gaps between bales and ensure there’s space between the stack and the walls to encourage air movement.
Monitor moisture levels
Regularly check the moisture content of your hay to prevent mould growth. Hay should ideally have a moisture content of around 15% or less. Consider using a moisture meter to monitor levels. If hay is baled with higher moisture, it should be well-ventilated to allow moisture to escape.
Implement a first-in, first-out system to ensure older hay gets used first. This prevents hay from sitting in storage for too long and potentially degrading in quality. Use proper labelling and organisation to make it easy to identify different batches of hay.
Schedule regular inspections of your stored hay to identify any signs of mould, pests, or other issues. Catching problems early can prevent them from spreading and impacting the entire batch.
Remember, the key to proper hay storage is maintaining optimal conditions to preserve its nutritional value and prevent hazards. Each hay type and local climate might have specific considerations, so adjust these tips accordingly.
Hay Barns for effective hay storage
Although a hay barn can initially seem like a big investment, we can assure you it comes with many benefits such as better feed for your horses, convenient stable management, and minimal hay spoilage and therefore, minimal wastage. This will result in considerable long-term savings as a horse owner. National Timber Buildings offer bespoke, high-quality timber hay barns which can be customised to suit your requirements. Request a copy of our brochure, or contact us on 01233 740944 to talk to our equestrian building experts.