Although the large round bales reduce the labor required when handling hay, hay stored outside can have significant storage losses, says Clyde Lane, University of Tennessee Extension.

Research shows the method of storage has a major influence on the amount of forage that is lost. In fact, data from a hay storage demonstration in Moore County, TN, that looked at hay losses using six methods of storage found that large round bales weighed and stored in June with reweighing being done in January fared this way:

  • Stored on the ground with no cover, 37% loss.
  • Stored on tires with no cover, 29% loss.
  • Stored on the ground and covered, 29% loss.
  • Stored on tires and covered, 8% loss.
  • Net wrapped and on the ground, 19% loss.
  • Stored in the barn, 6% loss.
Losses can be significant, with the greatest losses occurring when the hay was stored on the ground and not covered. The data support the idea the losses occur both from moisture getting to the top and bottom of bales.

Producers should strive to store hay in a barn if possible. The next best option is storage outside with the hay lifted off the ground and covered. Do not store hay on the ground or under trees, Lane advises.