Hay Buyers Should Watch Storage Methods

As cow/calf producers and feedlots look to put up and purchase hay for the winter, they should pay attention to how it is baled and stored to maximize the nutrient value when fed.

It pays, then, to look at the various storage methods and how they can affect the as-fed quality of the forage.  Much of the US’ hay, especially the grass hay, is put up in large round bales, and Glenn Selk, Oklahoma State University Emeritus Extension Animal Scientist said in the Oklahoma State University’s “Cow-Calf Corner,” “it is always important to reduce hay storage losses.”

Selk referenced a University of Tennessee study to compare different methods of storing large round bales of grass hay.  The hay was cut and baled in June in Moore County, Tennessee.

The bales were weighed at the time of harvest and storage.  They were weighed again the following January at the time of winter feeding.


The following table lists the type of storage and the resulting percentage of hay loss.

Table 1. Losses of hay stored using six methods of storage  (Source: Dr. Clyde Lane, University of Tennessee Department of Animal Science)

Type of Storage Percentage (%) of Hay Loss
On ground, no cover 37%
On old tires, no cover 29%
On ground, covered 29%
On old  tires, covered 8%
Net wrap on ground 19%
In barn 6%


Average spring, summer and fall rainfall in Tennessee generally will be greater than that experienced in much of Oklahoma (or other parts of the Plains), Selk said.  However, the rankings in storage loss between the storage methods will be present in Oklahoma (or the rest of the Plains) as well.

Selk also referenced an Oklahoma State University fact sheet by Ray Huhmke from the state Extension Service, that summarizes differences in storage loss that can be expected in an Oklahoma ranch setting.


able 2. Percentage (%)  dry matter loss of round hay bales.

  Storage Period
Storage Method Up to 9 months 12 – 18 months
Ground 5 – 20 15 – 50
Elevated 3 – 15 12 – 35
Ground 5 – 10 10 – 15
Elevated 2 – 4 5 -10
Under roof 2 – 5 3 – 10
Enclosed barn Less than 2 2 -5


As can be seen in the charts, it would be ideal to store the hay inside, but this often is not practical.  The next best option is when the hay is stored on something that gets it off the ground under a rain-shedding cover.

Unshaded, well-drained storage sites that are open to breezes are optimal without covers.  Up to 12 inches of the bottom of bales can be lost to moisture.

A north-south orientation of rows with the bales butted together and three feet between rows also helps, he said.




No Livestock Exchange Video Auction took place last Wednesday.  Fed cattle sold the previous Wednesday on the video auction at $106 per cwt, down $4 from the prior Wednesday.

Cash trade was reported Friday at $112 to $114 per cwt on a live basis, up about $6 from the previous week.  Dressed-basis sales in the Plains were mostly $173 to $175 per cwt, up about $5.

The USDA choice cutout Tuesday was up $0.40 per cwt at $207.32, while select was off $0.23 at $198.39.  The choice/select spread widened to $8.93 from $8.30 with 108 loads of fabricated product sold into the spot market.

The CME Feeder Cattle index for the seven days ended Monday, was $146.75 per cwt, up $0.27.  This compares with Tuesday’s Aug settlement of $151.85, up $0.40.