More from: hay tarps

Beef Cows, Hay Moisture, and Winter Feed

We don’t mind admitting that we are not experts in cattle farming and hay growing. Yes, we sell things like hay tarps, moisture testers, and fence energizers. But our knowledge of agricultural practices is limited. So it’s our responsibility to do the research necessary to make sure the products farmers actually need. In light of that, this blog post was prompted by a fascinating article published by Beef Magazine covering beef cows, hay moisture, and winter feed.

The premise of the article was this: beef cows fed high quality feed during the summer and fall months are likely to reject poor quality feed during the winter. That means improper hay storage can cause big problems for cattle ranchers. Even a farmer who simply provides feed without actually having any cattle of his own needs to be concerned.

Beef Magazine’s Joe Roybal wrote in the 2013 article that cattle ranchers devote more than half their annual expenditures to winter feed. He went on to explain that hay stored outdoors tends to have a higher spoilage rate than that kept indoors. One of the things we know, thanks to our knowledge of moisture testers, is that moisture content plays a significant role here.

Moisture Promotes Spoilage

Moisture is both a friend and enemy of hay. You need some moisture in order to keep it from drying out and becoming nutritionally valueless. On the other hand, excess moisture promotes spoilage. It encourages the growth of mold and bacteria as well. And, of course, every hay producer knows that excess moisture can cause spontaneous combustion in stored hay.

Farmers use moisture testers to figure out just how much moisture exists in stored bales. What they do when moisture levels are too high or low is a matter of individual practice, but something has to be done in order to prevent losses. Farmers also have to be careful that the feed they sell to cattle ranchers is of the highest possible quality if they don’t want to risk future sales.

It has been estimated that baled hay stored on the ground with no cover sustains average losses of about 37%. Getting that hay up off the ground can reduce losses to under 30%, even if it is not covered. By far the best strategy for preserving hay stored outdoors is to both cover it and get it off the ground.

Hay stored indoors is subject to average losses of about 6%. However, storing hay indoors does not mitigate the need to measure moisture content. Moisture can still cause spoilage to hay stored in even the best barns.

Practical Suggestions for Growers

Hay producers naturally want as little spoilage as possible so as to command top dollar for their product. Doing so is a matter of employing some practical suggestions. To begin with, getting hay under some sort of cover makes moisture easier to control and spoilage easier to prevent. Whether that means storing hay in a barn or under a tarp, it really needs to be covered.

Before covering, hay should be checked for moisture content. One of our moisture testers will do the trick. Hay that is too wet needs to be allowed to dry before it is covered. In the meantime, it’s imperative to keep rodents and other critters away.

Whether in a barn or outdoors, hay should be stacked off the ground. One trick a lot of farmers use is to stack their hay on old tires. This allows air circulation from underneath while at the same time preventing the hay from absorbing ground moisture.


Testing Hay Moisture: 3 Things You Need to Know

The final harvest of hay for the year is now past for all but a small handful of operations in the deep South. For everyone else, hay has been baled and put into storage. That does not mean the work is done, though. Any hay producer who wants his/her crop to maintain its value must be diligent about measuring moisture levels throughout the winter months.

Every hay producer knows that moisture is the enemy. Moisture promotes the growth of mold and fungus; it encourages critters to take up residence in stored bales, and it creates conditions that can eventually lead to a catastrophic fire. It is not enough to bale your hay and throw it under a tarp until spring. You have to keep an eye on it throughout the winter. To that end, below are three things every hay producer should know.

1. The Problem with Moisture

Before we even get to talking about the electronic moisture tester, we need to address the question of why moisture levels need to be checked. As you know, hay that has too much moisture is no better than hay that is too dry. Farmers are typically looking for an 18% to 20% moisture content.

Hay with too much moisture is an open invitation to fungus and mold. Both are living organisms that consume moisture as they propagate. Here’s the problem: fungus and mold put off heat as they feed and multiply. At the same time, they also break down proteins in the hay. The combination of increased heat and less structural integrity within the hay stacks can lead to fire.

2. Testing before Baling

The easiest and most effective way to test hay for moisture is to use an electronic moisture tester. Note that readings are more accurate with higher volumes of hay. Therefore, the general rule is to fill a bucket with hay that is tightly compacted. Then simply insert the tester probe and let it do its thing.

Once an initial reading has been obtained, mix up the hay and pack it down again. Then take another reading. Repeat the process several times to get the most accurate reading, then measure hay from different parts of your field the same way. Multiple testing accounts for different conditions in different areas.

3. Testing after Baling

Testing baled hay is a lot easier. Just choose a bale, insert the moisture tester, and take a reading. However, there is one caveat: the density of hay in a given bale is not uniform throughout. Therefore, you have to take multiple readings from each bale to get the most accurate number.

Make sure to space out your insertion points to get a good representation of the entire bale rather than just the center. If you get high readings, keep a close eye on things until the readings come down. If you have to open bales to let someone moisture out, it is better than risking spoiled hay or a fire.

One last tip is to pay attention to the variation in readings. This applies to both baled and hay in the windrow. A significant variation across a single field or storage area suggests it would be best to take new readings every couple of day until things level off. Your hay is out of the danger zone when it is consistently coming in at 18% to 20%.

Are you in the market for a new moisture tester? If so, Mytee Products has you covered. Take a look at both of our moisture testers from Agratronix. Either should meet your needs.

Applying Hay Tarps in Colder Weather

If old man winter were an actual person, he might be nice enough to warn you of what he has planned over the next several months. He might ask farmers if they have enough hay tarps to protect what they plan to store. In truth, old man winter cannot ask questions, but we can. So, how are you looking for hay tarps?

The thing about hay tarps is that getting them in place as early as possible works to your advantage. It is a lot easier to properly deploy a tarp in warmer, drier weather than it is in the middle of that first winter storm. Therefore, it also works to your advantage to recognize the signs of the weather to come early enough to get those tarps in place.

Life in the Old Days

Long before there was an internet, cellphones, and all the other comforts of modern life, farmers looked for natural signs that winter was coming. They paid attention to the thickness of the coats of their livestock, knowing that those coats would fluff out as winter weather approached. They paid attention to migrating birds and foraging animals like squirrels who were busy stockpiling their winter food.

At the earliest signs of the approaching winter, farmers knew they had to get their hay in from the field. Out came the wagons and horses for a multi-day marathon of bailing, transporting, and stacking. Then all that hay had to be covered with some sort of protection.

Today, life is a lot easier. We have tractors to bring hay in from the field. We have advanced weather equipment that more accurately predicts when winter weather is coming. And, of course, there is the internet. Farmers can order their hay tarps online and have them delivered right to their doors. The convenience of modern life makes it a lot easier to protect a crop from moisture, mold, and pests.

Cover That Hay Now

The calendar has turned to November and the holiday season is fast approaching. That means the time for planning has long since passed. Now is the time to put those plans in motion and the time to get that hay covered.

Remember that the biggest enemies of hay at this time of year are pests and precipitation. Hay tarps alone may not be enough to keep the pests out, so you will have to look at other solutions for that. But well-deployed tarps held down with strong ropes and anchor points should be enough to keep the precipitation away from your crop.

There are lots of different methods for stacking hay prior to being covered. One of the more common methods is the A-frame. An A-frame stack is usually 3 to 4 bales high with a single row at the top to create a peak. You then throw your hay tarps over the stack and secure them to anchor points that you have driven into the ground. The resulting frame helps snow and rain run off rather than pooling.

Regardless of your stacking method, make sure your hay tarps extend over the edge of the stack far enough to allow moisture to fall away from the hay. If you run your tarps right down the side of the stack, you are inviting precipitation to pool at the base, which is to defeat the purpose of tarping.

Old man winter is knocking. If you are a farmer, he’s asking whether your hay tarps are ready. If you are not ready for winter, don’t delay. Order your hay tarps from Mytee Products today.

Basic Principles of Hay Tarp Safety

While conducting a brief review of past blog posts, it occurred to us that it would be a good idea to share safety tips involving hay tarps. We talk a lot about trucker safety for cargo control, but apparently the topic of hay tarp safety hasn’t been addressed. This post aims to change that.

It is important to start an ongoing discussion centered around using hay tarps safely, beginning with this post covering a few basic principles. We may produce future posts that get into more advanced principles for hay stacking, tarping, and moisture control.

If you are looking for a way to protect your hay without using a barn or storage shed, Mytee Products has several options to choose from. We carry a full line of hay tarps along with temporary storage structures made with galvanized steel pipe and heavy-duty PE fabric.

And now, on to the basic principles of hay tarp safety.

Principle #1: Limit the Size of Your Stacks

We never cease explaining to truckers how dangerous it is to walk on the top of a load to secure tarps. In fact, we recommend avoiding the practice if at all possible. The same applies to stacks of hay. Every new layer you add to a stack also adds height. If your stacks are too high, you may find you have to climb on top in order to properly secure tarps. Remember: with height comes increased danger in the event of a fall.

It is best to limit your stacks to 10 or 12 feet, at the most. If you do have to climb on top, make sure you use an extension ladder long enough to elevate you above the top of the stack as you climb on. Attempting to get on top of a stack using a stepladder is just not wise.

Principle #2: Don’t Tarp Under Windy Conditions

Avoid attempting to deploy tarps on windy days. Hay growers, like truck drivers, sustain a good number of their tarp-related injuries as a result of wind catching tarps. If you absolutely must deploy a tarp on a windy day, make sure you stand up wind of your haystack. Then, if the wind does catch the tarp, it will blow away from you instead of against you.

Principle #3: Get Help When Tarping

Hey tarps are a lot heavier than you might think. Therefore, do yourself a favor and get help when you are ready to cover your hay. There is no need to be a hero by trying to tarp yourself. Being a hero could result in a hernia, a back injury, or something worse.

Principle #4: Wear Protective Gear

You will most likely be using straps or bungee cords to secure your tarps. As such, you should wear head and eye protection. You never know when something could snap back and strike you with enough force to knock you on your backside. The last thing you need is a head or eye injury.

Principle #5: Check Grommets before Deploying

With the exception of damaged seams, the weakest link on any hay tarp is its grommets. You can go a long way toward remaining safe by inspecting every grommet prior to deployment. If a grommet appears even slightly damaged or loose, do not use it. Either get the tarp fixed or work around the grommet in question.

At Mytee Products, we firmly believe in the safety-first mindset. We encourage our hay tarp customers to use the utmost care when covering hay stacks this fall. Your hay can be replaced; you cannot be.

A Few Fall Reminders for Hay Tarps

It is that time of year again when growers are starting to think about winter hay storage. Every year, there is that nagging question of whether to go with tarps or store excess hay in the barn. That is considering a grower even has a barn to work with. Those who do not are forced to rely on hay tarps or temporary storage structures.

The debate over whether to use tarps or not comes largely from the less gleeful stories we hear every spring about crop loss resulting from tarp failure. The first thing to understand is that no storage solution is perfect. The second thing to note is that much of the effectiveness of hay tarps lies in how they are deployed. With that in mind, below are a few fall reminders for those growers intending to tarp their hay this winter.

1. Pay Attention to How You Stack

One of the biggest problems growers face is snow and ice. When a stack is not constructed properly, it allows certain portions of the hay tarp to lay flat and, as a result, collect precipitation. Get enough snow and ice built up and it could be nearly impossible to remove a tarp when hay is needed in early spring. The best way to avoid this problem is to pay attention to how you stack.

Hay stacking should really be done in a-frame or pyramid shape if you are planning to use tarps. Giving the stack a sharp enough incline will make it easier for precipitation to roll off. You still may have to go out to sweep your stacks after an especially persistent snowfall, but clearing an inclined stack is a lot easier than clearing a flat stack. It is a lot safer too.

2. Check Your Tie Downs

Any experienced tarp user will tell you that the key to avoiding most problems is keeping hay tarps tight and secure. Doing so requires that tie downs be checked on a regular basis. Remember that even the slightest bit of wind underneath a tarp can cause big problems in both the short and long terms. Checking once a week should be sufficient. Tie downs should definitely be checked immediately after storms to assess the extent of wind damage.

3. Utilize PVC Pipe

Another common complaint among hay growers is that the grommets built into their tarps fail in severe weather. We suggest a tarp with webbing loops or a built-in sleeve capable of accommodating PVC pipe. Securing tie-downs with PVC pipe results in a much stronger system than tying down with grommets alone. You can still use the grommets along with bungee straps for a little extra strength.

4. Inspect Tarps during the Fall

Last but not least is the reminder to check all your hay tarps in the fall. Do not wait until you start stacking hay to find out that one or more of your tarps is ripped or torn. Now is the time to address any damage while you’re not under pressure to get that hay cut and stacked.

Minor damage can be repaired with one of our tarp repair kits. Major damage, like torn seams for example, may require a more heavy-duty solution. You can obviously browse our selection of farming supplies should any of your tarps need complete replacement.

Fall is harvest time in North America. In just a few months, the snow will be flying and the temperatures falling. If you plan to store hay this winter, make sure you are fully prepared with everything you need. Mytee Products carries high-quality hay tarps, spiral anchor pins, and temporary storage structures.