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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.


When Hay Tarps Need A Little Help To Do the Job

Farmers who count on hay to supplement their income cannot afford to lose any of their crop. Hay prices seldom experience a lot of fluctuation, and growers do worry about mold and combustion. They do not need additional problems created by critters who happen to find their hay crops inviting. Farmers know that sometimes those critters can be so challenging that they need an additional layer of help so hay tarps can do their job successfully.

Hay stacks should definitely be covered by something. Whether that something is a collection of hay tarps or the roof of a barn, that is entirely up to the farmer, but keeping hay covered is essential to protecting its value. Then other measures should be taken if critters become a problem. For the purposes of illustration, we will talk about rabbits, elk, and deer.

Rabbits in Idaho

Over this past winter and spring, there were numerous reports out of Idaho involving an exploding jack rabbit population. Apparently, jack rabbit populations in the Gem State are cyclical in nature. Every 4 to 5 years there is a population explosion that causes big problems for hay farmers. The winter of 2016/2017 proved to be one with a significant jack rabbit population.

The rabbits are not afraid to help themselves to hay stacks when winter weather prevents them from foraging elsewhere. The problem was so bad this past winter that growers had to take to patrolling their hay stacks during the overnight hours to keep the animals away. Some were going so far as to hire friends and family members to take shifts so that coverage would be there all night.

Rabbits cause problems with hay in two ways. First, they chew around the base of hay stacks as they feed. Extensive chewing will destabilize a stack, potentially causing it to come crashing down. Even if that doesn’t happen, there’s a second problem: chewing rabbits can break through baling twine with no problem at all. The combination of instability and broken twine makes loading hay bales a lot more difficult.

Elk and Deer

When elk and deer are a problem for hay stacks, it could be for one of two reasons. First is the same kind of problem that the jack rabbits create. Foraging elk and deer destabilize hay stacks whenever they feed. The destabilization isn’t usually a serious though because elk and deer feed higher up on the stack. But there is a second issue that can create bigger headaches.

Elk and deer have a habit of getting their antlers entangled in hay tarps and anchor ropes. If they get tangled too tightly, they can completely rip down a hay tarp in an attempt to escape. Then the farmer has to replace the tarp and rope in addition to working on any damage done to his property and the hay stack.

So what are hay farmers to do? In Idaho, the Department of Fish and Game has already funded programs for farmers looking to fence their hay stacks. The right kind of fencing can keep deer and elk out. The department may look into funding a solution for the jack rabbits next winter if it looks like another year of unusually high numbers of rabbits.

A jack rabbit solution would be something similar to a mesh screen that could be placed around the base of a stack. Combining both a mesh screen and a decent fence could all but eliminate the risk of critters harming stored hay. Then it would be back to ensuring hay tarps are deployed in such a way as to protect against moisture and debris.

Sources:

Capital Press – http://www.capitalpress.com/Idaho/20170306/east-idaho-hay-farmers-lose-sleep-over-jackrabbits


How to Use Hay Tarps for Covering and Composting

We have dedicated previous blog posts to discussing the proper use of hay tarps for protecting stored hay on the farm. It turns out that many of the things farmers have to be concerned about with hay storage are actually good for another practice. Furthermore, that other practice is made better with the use of hay tarps.

What is the practice being referenced here? It is the practice of composting. Farms are great places for composting because there are so many natural materials readily available. A farm with a good composting strategy can reduce its need for chemical fertilizers while also reducing the amount of waste that goes into landfills or burn piles.

Covering Hay with Tarps

Before we discuss using hay tarps for composting, a quick refresher about covering hay is in order. Farmers who choose to use hay tarps over barns or purpose-built structures do so for a number of reasons, among them being flexibility and portability. The tarps are also used to protect bales of hay in the field until they can be collected.

As you might remember from previous posts, the key to covering hay with tarps is to avoid excessive moisture while still allowing hay bales to breathe. Bales that are wrapped too tightly in tarps are bales that cannot breathe. This can cause heat buildup that might eventually lead to spontaneous combustion.

On the other hand, covering bales too loosely can allow excess moisture to penetrate the hay. A good rain storm is all it takes. Moisture leads to mold, mildew, and eventual losses. As you can see, there is that fine line that has to be observed when covering hay with tarps.

Hay Tarps and Composting

Composting is the practice of combining certain kinds of biodegradable material in a large pile and allowing it to decay over time. In reality, the soil under our feet is partly the result of thousands of years of composting. That’s another topic for another post, though. For the purposes of this post, we want to talk about composting on the farm.

A general rule of thumb for good composting is to combine natural materials by focusing on color. You want equal parts green, brown, and other colors. That means composting things such as grass clippings, hay, expired fruits and vegetables, and so on. All the material is combined in a composting bin or in a large pile well away from any structures.

Where does the hay tarp come in? Covering a compost heap with a hay tarp traps heat and moisture in the pile. This speeds up the decomposition process considerably. You can do even better by removing the tarp from time to time, turning the pile over, soaking it with water, and putting the tarp back on. Regular turning over and soaking minimizes the amount of time necessary for decomposition.

You do not have to worry about heat and moisture in a compost pile because there is no danger of spontaneous combustion. Obviously, mold and mildew are not a concern either. You can cover a compost pile with a tarp and forget about it until the next time it needs to be turned over.

Mytee Has Your Hay Tarps

In addition to our large selection of truck tarps, Mytee Products also carries hay tarps for agricultural uses. Our hay tarps are made of heavy-duty, 8-ounce polyethylene fabric that has been treated for UV resistance and waterproofing. They are tough enough to withstand the harshest conditions on your farm. When you are ready to purchase, don’t forget the 16″ spiral anchor pins.


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 Help Farmers Sell Hay by Weight

With as many as three crops per year, it is common for alfalfa farmers to sell bales of harvested hay by volume. They charge by bale, under the assumption that all of their bales will be of similar size at shipment. But is there a better way? Could it be that selling hay by weight rather than volume is better for customers? It could be.

According to a very informative article published on the Brownwood Bulletin (Brownwood, TX) website, customers who purchase hay by the bale are always taking the risk of getting smaller bales that do not provide enough volume and may not have been adequately protected against moisture, via hay tarps or other protective means. Author Scott Anderson recommends buying by weight rather than volume.

hay-tarps

His assertion is based on the reality that there is always waste involved when hay is purchased. That waste occurs on two fronts. First, cattle typically do not eat all of the forage presented to them. All sorts of factors influence this. The age of the animals, the quality of the forage, and even the time of year all affect how much is actually eaten. What is not consumed ends up as waste.

The other area of waste is the natural waste that comes with every bale. Anderson contends that among bales of hay that are properly protected by barns or hay tarps, only about 5% is classified as unusable waste. That number jumps dramatically for hay that is not protected. Bales left out at the mercy of the weather can end up containing as much as 28% waste when it comes time to actually break apart a bale and start feeding animals.

Why Purchasing by Weight Is Better

Purchasing hay by weight is better for the customer, again for two reasons. First, purchasing by weight eliminates much of the waste associated with cattle not eating everything provided for them. A farmer or rancher who takes the time to figure out roughly how much forage his animals will eat during the course of an average week or month will know how much hay he needs to have on hand. Purchasing by weight makes it possible to get just what the customer needs without the risk of buying too much that will eventually go to waste.

For example, let’s say a farmer is looking at 1,000 pounds of hay with an average 5% waste. For every thousand pounds purchased, 950 pounds is usable. All the farmer needs to do is calculate how much he will need for feed between deliveries and purchase just that amount.

The second reason for purchasing by weight is to force the producer to know what he is selling. If a farmer doesn’t want to lose a customer, he will take the time to weigh hay bales – and verify their weight – in order to ensure that the customer is getting what he is paying for. The farmer willing to do that is also one who is likely to make the effort to protect hay both in the field and after it comes in.

If a farmer is selling by weight, he certainly does not want to expose his customer to 28% waste, which is why he is more likely to use hay tarps in the field and either store hay in the barn or under larger tarps once the crop is brought in.

Selling hay by weight rather than volume is better for customers. In the end, it is also better for farmers from as well.

Sources:

1. Brownwood Bulletin – http://www.brownwoodtx.com/lifestyle/20160708/hay-bales-skinny-on-size

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