Written By: Krishona Martinson, PhD, University of Minnesota
Drought conditions have severely reduced the supply of hay and other feedstuffs, escalating the demand and driving up prices. Horse owners can reduce hay waste by using feeders and properly storing hay, especially when feeding round-bales.
In a study conducted in MN, feeding round-bales to horses without a feeder resulted in 57% waste. All nine round-bale feeders tested reduced hay waste, and ranged from 5 to 33% hay waste.
Research has shown outdoor hay storage losses can range from 5 to 35% depending on precipitation, storage site, and original condition of the bale. For example, the outer 4" layer of a 6' diameter round-bale contains about 25% of the total bale volume, and is most likely to be damaged by weather if stored improperly or unprotected.
There are a number of techniques that minimize outdoor storage losses:
- Bale (or buy) a dense bale as the bales will sag less and have less surface area in contact with the ground.
- Use plastic wrap, net wrap, or plastic twine. Research showed that net wrapped bales reduced grass hay dry matter losses by 32% compared with twine bales when stored outside.
- Store bales on a well-drained surface. A well-drained, 4-6" coarse rock base will minimize bottom spoilage, as well as using wooden pallets.
- Never store bales under trees.
- Storage losses are usually reduced by approximately two-thirds with indoor storage and by one-half with good plastic covering (i.e. a tarp) outdoors.
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