November and December mark the year’s final hay harvest in the southern portions of the U.S. In the north, farmers will be preparing for the first harvest of the year next spring. Yet no matter where hay is produced, growers want to get the most for their money. And in many cases, using hay tarps is part of the profit-maximizing equation.
Hay tarps are designed to protect the harvested crop from moisture. Farmers who want that protection can either use tarps or build storage barns for the harvested material. Other growers do not worry about protecting the crop at all, choosing to leave it exposed to the weather instead.
Here are three reasons you should consider using hay tarps if you are a grower:
1. Protecting Crop Value
Hay is often bailed before it has a chance to fully dry out. This is done in order to maintain proper moisture levels. However, moisture levels that are too high promote mold growth. This is the first reason for covering your hay with tarps. You do not want bales to get wet if it rains because wet hay can contain mold that is dangerous to horses and cattle.
According to Hay & Forage, growers can lose as much as 20% of a crop by not protecting with either tarps or storage barns. Most of the damage is limited to the outer two or three inches that have absorbed the water from rainfall. Even so, a 20% loss of a crop can be financially devastating. It’s well worth spending the money on tarps and stakes compared to the amount you could lose if baled hay gets wet.
2. Fire Prevention
Though most hay growers will go an entire career without experiencing a hay fire, such fires are more common than you might think. Fires in baled hay are usually the result of high moisture content and inadequate ventilation. The fires are sparked by what is known as spontaneous combustion.
When the moisture content of hay is too high, it allows for the growth of mold and bacteria. The mold and bacteria break down the hay into simple sugars they can digest easily. This is the process of respiration. Unfortunately, respiration produces heat that, under the right conditions, can cause hay to combust. Growers who intend to store hay for any longer than four weeks need to be concerned about protecting the crop from additional moisture.
3. Less Expensive Than Barns
It is true that hay tarps do not offer the same level of protection as dedicated barns. However, they offer adequate protection that is more in line with their expense. Simply put, tarps and stakes are less expensive than building barns. Growers which short-term storage needs are better off spending their money on less expensive tarps.
For a few hundred dollars, a grower could provide adequate protection for his or her crop until it is shipped. Tarps can then be folded and stored until the next harvest, leaving the land open and usable for other purposes. Barns, on the other hand, are fixed structures with permanent footprints.
As a hay grower, do you use tarps to protect your crop? If not, consider the possibility that you might be losing up to 20% of your earning power by leaving your hay exposed to the weather. It is probably well worth your investment to purchase the necessary tarps and stakes you need to protect your hay prior to shipment. At Mytee Products, we carry a number of different hay tarps in various sizes to meet your specific needs and budget.