How to store a bale of hay

3 key hay storage principles for large square straw bales

By Greg McCalman

Maximise the value of your hay bales by safely preserving grade quality to be able to sell at the best time of year when returns are higher. Feedlots operate 365 days a year! There is demand for hay cut early and there are indicators showing heightened needs for vetch hay bales at feedlots. Prices of cereal hay usually fetch up to $300 per tonne but during drought conditions, has traded as high as $700.  Previous drought years frosted wheaten hay has performed well, whereas barley, lucerne and oats square bales demand is subject to feed analysis.

Square hay bales are more dense than round bales and this density is ideally up to 280kg/m3. Poorer hay bales have a density as low as 160kg/m3. Freight and handling is also more efficient for square hay bales.

Hay Farmers have access to a range of options to consider to maximise return on investment and I’ll review the 3 key principles to guide your decision making process.

Principle 1. Getting the hay out of the elements and keeping it dry.

There are a few options available today to partially protect hay in the paddock such as hay caps and hay tarps but evidence is clear that storing your bales in a specifically built hay shed is the best solution.
The reason I say specifically built is that there are a few fundamentals that need to be taken into consideration when designing your hay shed:

  • use a professional earthmover to build a well compacted base minimum 200mm above the surrounding ground and if possible, on a rise. This will allow water to flow away from the shed in event of a big rain event.
  • don’t build an old school roof only hay shed if you can possibly afford it, close three of the side walls of your shed and face the open side wall towards the East. This will allow you to get premium return on all your bales, not have to give the side bales away as damaged, or worse still have a hay fire due to wet bales spontaneously combusting.
  • use a moisture barrier under the bales. Similar to the above point, this prevents moisture damaged bales and gives you full return on all your bales.
  • Have a look at this link for a few more pointers

Principle 2. Making it easy and safe to load and unload your hay shed.

With 8’ x 3’ x 4’ bales, 8m bays (the measurement between the posts on the open wall) should be a minimum. This gives enough room to store three bales wide comfortably and leaves a small gap for ventilation, some growers choose slightly wider bays to make it even easier. While we’re talking about making it easier, we also need to keep safety in mind – everyone deserves to go home in one piece at the end of the day.

With modern telehandlers we have the capability to stack seriously high and stacking 9 bales on top of each other has become almost common place. If you’re planning on stacking this high it’s important to plan how you’ll stack the bales, many growers choose to stagger the stack e.g. 3 bales on the base then offset the next bales by half the width of the bottom bale. Also consider the angle that you put the forks into the bales, especially if the stack is high, you don’t want the forks to stick and pull the stack over when you’re reversing.

Principle 3. Reduce the risk of spontaneous combustion.

It’s a hay growers’ worst nightmare to see their hard work and income go up in smoke. Some things are commonsense like baling at the right moisture levels but when it comes to storing the bales in a shed there are a couple of points to keep in mind:

  • Design your shed to give room for ventilation between stacks so that if there are a few warm bales the effect doesn’t compound through the stack as easily.
  • Close the walls facing prevailing weather and use a moisture barrier underneath the minimize the chances of adding moisture to the stack.
  • Ask your shed builder for a gutter system to take all your stormwater to the ends of the shed so you don’t have any downpipes on the side, these crack over time and let stormwater under your bales. Have a look at our external box gutter system as an example

Entegra has optimised the design with the Original Series Hay Shed kits with the 1000 bale hay shed prices starting from $49,980 excluding GST & installation. At this price farmers can store hay 3 bales wide per bay (4 x 8 metre bays), 6 bales high (6 metres) and 15 bales deep (18 metres).

Entegra are offering galvanised columns for Hay Sheds as standard with an optional extra for trusses.

It is also possible to insert a girder truss to double a bay to 16 metres which is popular in Machinery sheds and storage sheds.
Entegra specialise in large hay sheds no smaller than the 1000 bale shed 32m(L) x18m(W) x6m(H), so 4 bay sizes at 8 metres apart with open front to east.The offer includes a full suite of services including permits that you require – town planning and building permits. All Entegra Farm sheds use Bluescope steel.
To know more about your shed design click here Hay Shed or talk now to our design team 1300 296 206 to get your bales stored and quality hay sold. We can custom design with a shed to suit.

Your project can also be designed so that you can park your plant and equipment undercover. Click here

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