More from: hay bale

How to Build a Quick Hay Storage System

There are lots of different ways to store hay using tarps. In this post, we will outline the steps for building a quick and dirty hay storage system that will keep your hay safe and dry without the need for a permanent structure like a pole barn or garage.

Bear in mind that this description is just a general guide. You may want to modify what you read here to better suit your circumstances. Also remember your main goal: to protect hay from the elements so as to reduce spoilage as much as possible. Unprotected hay can suffer spoilage rates of up to 20%, making for significant losses in an exceptionally bad season.

To build your quick and dirty hay storage system, you will need hay tarps, rope, and PVC piping. Spiral anchor pins are optional if you would rather stake down the tarp rather than running rope under the bales of hay.

One last thing before we get to the build: depending on how you build your system the hay storage system designed here work best with round bales and square bales stacked in a pyramid. Use your own discretion when building your system.

Step-By-Step Process

The first step is to measure out the storage space. A 28-foot tarp should be good for 70-75 bales of hay stacked in a pyramid configuration. You can place the first layer directly on the ground or lay down some gravel first, it’s up to you. Most farmers just go straight to the ground.

Once your storage space has been measured out, lay ropes across the space at 3 foot intervals. You will eventually be pulling these ropes up and using them to secure your tarp, so leave some excess. Now you are ready to begin stacking your hay right on top of the rope.

When stacking is complete, you are going to lay PVC pipe across the top of the stack to prevent the tarp from directly contacting the hay. This is important for allowing air flow to move over the top of the stack. If you don’t do this, you could get moisture build up that could promote mold or mildew growth in the top few inches of the pyramid.

Next, stretch your tarp out on the ground. With someone to help you, you can now lift the outside edge and pull the tarp up and over the entire stack. Do your best to center the tarp before tying it down. Also, do not worry too much if the tarp seems a bit too small. It’s better to have less tarp to work with than too much.

Next, string the ropes through grommets in the tarp and tie everything off. Your ropes should have enough tension to keep the tarp taught. The lower edge of the tarp should be positioned just slightly lower than the widest point of the stack in order to allow rain to run off.

Lastly, insert PVC pipe where the tarp makes contact with the first layer of hay. The tarp should already have enough tension to hold the pipe in place. The idea here is to replicate what you did at the top of the stack: keeping the tarp from making direct contact with the hay.

After Installation

If you did everything correctly, you should have a complete stack of hay properly covered and secured against the elements. After installation though, it is important to check the tension of the ropes every week or so. Your haystack will settle somewhat, so you will need to tighten the ropes throughout the storage season.

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Hay Tarps Protect Your Hay – From Cows

Just about every farmer in the U.S. who deals with hay has a collection of hay tarps or some other means of protecting the crop that was harvested. More often than not, tarps are used to keep hay out of the rain so as to prevent mold and mildew, insect infestation, and spontaneous combustion. But there appears to be another very good reason for using tarps: protecting the hay from cows.

A recent video out of Washington state gave an intriguing look into what goes on in a typical pasture when a cattle rancher or farmer isn’t paying attention. The video shows several black cows enjoying their roll in a bale of hay down a hill. The important part here is that an entire bale was likely lost by the time the cows were done with it.

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All Downhill from There

An article accompanying the video published by the UK’s Daily Mail says that the incident occurred in Oak Harbor, Washington. Apparently, a group of cows were out grazing in the pasture when one of them, nudged a standing bale of hay with her nose. It began rolling, inviting the cow to nudge it again. Meanwhile, the other cows in the group started running and bucking. Once the hay bale gained some momentum, it was all downhill.

You can tell from the video that there is a slight incline that appears to be just enough to keep the bale moving. As it rolls downhill, the bale completely unravels – until there is nothing left. Meanwhile, the entire herd of cows participating in the party seem to be enjoying the experience. T

In the Field, at the Barn

While the video provides an adorable look at one aspect of a cow’s personality that most of us are not familiar with, there is also the technical and financial sides of the issue for farmers. It is common practice for hay to be bailed and left in the field for days or weeks until it can be collected and brought to the barn. Hay tarps are a tool for protecting any hay left in the field until it can be brought in.

Whether in the field or the barn, a good selection of tarps keeps hay dry. A good tarp might also have prevented the Washington cows from using their bale of hay as a plaything. To illustrate the point, consider the fact that farmers will stack three or four bales of hay together in the field before tarping them. The sheer size of the combined bales would prevent any cows in the pasture from being mischievous.

The key to tarping hay bales is to provide enough coverage to keep moisture off without limiting the ability of the bales underneath to breathe. That’s why you don’t see hay bales completely wrapped in tarp material. Tarps tend to go on top with a little bit draped over the sides just to keep any precipitation or condensation from soaking into the hay.

It is likely the cows in Washington more than enjoyed themselves rolling their hay bale down the hill. Given that cows are more intelligent than most of us know, it is also likely they might try to repeat it if given an opportunity to do so. Stacking several bales together and covering them with a hay tarp should prevent any such incidents from happening again.

Sources:

1. Daily Mail – http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3681986/While-farmer-s-away-cows-play-Group-excited-calves-fun-rolling-giant-HAY-BALE-hill.html