How to store hay with minimal wastage

Hay and straw are roughage and occupy a special place in the diet of ruminants (including cattle). After drying the cut grass to a moisture content of 15-20 percent, we get such feed stuff as hay. Nutrition in 1 kg of high quality hay from 0.40 to 0.60 fodder. units. This feed is suitable for ruminal fermentation in terms of acidity (normal feeding technology should maintain a pH of 6.2-67).

Hay and straw contain a small amount of energy, but high fiber content is important, which stimulates the process of digestion and chewing. Fiber is essential for health and affects the performance of cattle.

The quality of hay depends on the composition of the grass stand, the phase in which the mowing takes place, the method of drying the grass and storage conditions. It is about the last important point that will be discussed further in the article.

How to save the cut grass as hay as much as possible:

1. Fiber is, of course, an important component in the diet of cattle, but when harvesting hay, the task is still to preserve the maximum amount of energy and nutrients.

It is known that the longer the cut hay lies on the field, the more it loses proteins, vitamins and microelements, therefore, it is necessary to minimize the drying time.

The drying time in the field is accelerated by flattening during mowing, the mower for cereals is equipped with a beater, and for beans with a roller conditioner. For cereal grasses, we use stirring, for legumes – only if necessary (after rain, for example).

An effective way is to finish drying by the method of active ventilation. But we will not consider it yet, since it is not very popular due to the additional costs of organizing this process.

2. It is more efficient to transport and store hay in a compressed form (after all, the total losses during the harvesting of loose hay can reach 40%). Therefore, most of the farmers in the world collect hay using balers. Depending on the type of machine and packaging material, the output may be round or square bales. Pressed hay in bales takes up less volume during transportation and storage. Bale tying in balers is done with twine or netting. Why mesh is better than twine, we analyzed in detail in this article.

Each farmer chooses the optimal baler for himself. There are a large number of variations of presses on the market: from mini (form bales of 10-15 kg) to high-performance machines that make large bales weighing 500-600 kg).

Twine (for round and square bales) and bale net wrap (for round bales) are used as a strapping material to hold the shape of the bale.

Now the most popular way of harvesting hay is pressing into cylindrical bales. When using twine, it takes about 60 seconds to tie one bale, nets – 15 seconds. Therefore, it is better to use balers with a knitting device that supports the use of net.

3. Humidity at which hay is stored in a pressed form should be around 15%. At higher humidity there is a threat of deterioration in the quality of hay, it heats up and may even catch fire. Humidity inside the bale is controlled by a moisture meter with a probe.

4. To allow ventilation, the bales are baled at a reduced density. But at the same time, the bale must keep its shape. In round pick-ups, the compaction density of the core is reduced.

5. Hay is stored under cover. This can be either a stationary storage or the use of a special covering fabric – agrofibre for bales. This material allows not only to protect the feed stuff from precipitation, but also allows air to pass through. Agrofibre for covering hay and straw is made from polypropylene with a density of 130 g/m2, it has UV stabilization and can last up to 5 years.

Often, farmers use stretch film as a cover, but this is not the best method, because the stretch film does not allow air to pass through, and moisture can accumulate under it, as a result there is a risk of mold. You can read about other options for sheltering bales in a hay net here.