More from: hay

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.


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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A Bumper Hay Crop Means More Hay Tarps in Action

It appears as though this year is turning out to be a very good one for both hay and livestock producers. Hay production is up almost everywhere and livestock producers are anticipating lower feed prices next year to account for what appears to be a bumper crop for 2016. Even companies providing tertiary support are benefiting from the good year. For example, manufacturers and retailers know that a bumper crop of hay means – more hay tarps in action throughout the fall and winter months.

According to AG Web, the USDA’s acreage report released at the end of June (2016) shows a 3% increase in hay production through the first half of the year, translating to some 56.1 million acres harvested. Of that, just over 18 million acres should generate a 2% increase in total alfalfa production.

hay-crop

AG Web cautions that hay production in the West may modify the government’s number somewhat when their August report is released. Despite a wetter than usual spring, some farmers in the West may be content with the first cutting before planting something else in their fields. That would negatively impact the USDA’s acreage numbers at the end of the year. Still, production should be up overall.

Storing Excess Hay over the Winter

In the state of Idaho, farmers are having another very good year in addition to an exceptional 2015. In fact, the 2016 crop has been so good that some farmers expect to be storing a lot of excess once their final cuts are complete. They are anticipating sales picking up early next year as livestock producers increase feed purchases for their animals. For them, it is all about storing hay until the customers start buying.

Storing hay over the winter can mean the selective use of hay tarps or putting baled hay in storage barns. With either option, farmers have to be very careful about moisture content, exposing baled hay to ground moisture, and preventing pest infestations. But the nation’s farmers have been doing this long enough to protect their crops over the winter.

Farmers who choose the hay tarp route have learned how to stack bales and cover them with tarps in a way that offers maximum protection. Others have barns specifically meant for hay storage during the winter, barns that can be repurposed the following spring and summer for other things. The key is giving the hay plenty of opportunity to breathe without letting it get so dry that it ends up being no good.

During the hot summer months, there is also the ongoing risk of fire. When the moisture content is too high, hay can spontaneously combust. Farmers have to consider that when using hay tarps instead of storage barns.

Time Will Run Its Course

Idaho farmers look to have a bigger excess inventory this year than their counterparts in other states, thanks to perfectly timed rains this spring and summer. The excess is significant enough that some farmers in the state expect it will take two or three years for the market to flatten out. We will have to wait and see, but that’s an awfully long time to have to worry about excess hay storage.

It could be that some hay producers in Idaho cut, bale and store the first and final cuttings of the year while leaving the summer cutting to waste. But in either case, they are going to need plenty of hay tarps to store everything they have harvested this year. It has been a very good year thus far, that’s for sure.

Sources:

1. AG Web – http://www.agweb.com/article/561-million-hay-acres-offers-livestock-producers-hope-for-lower-feed-costs-naa-anna-lisa-laca/
2. Idaho County Free Press – http://www.idahocountyfreepress.com/news/2016/jul/06/camas-prairie-ag-producers-enjoying-bumper-crop-ha/

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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.

hay-bale

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