Hay growers can protect the quality of their hay even if it’s left outside, says David Davis, ag and natural resources agent with University of Kentucky Extension.

“But many producers often fail to store their hay in a way that reduces hay dry matter and quality loss,” he says.

Davis offers these suggestions:

• Avoid placing rolls side to side. Leave 2-3’ between rows of bales to allow for quicker drying. Producers might also consider placing hay on pallets or constructing graveled storage pads to allow for drainage away from bales.

• Wrap rolls with plastic to minimize exposure to rain. But if in-line wrappers are too expensive, simply cover the top half of rolls with plastic that’s secure before stacking.

• If stacking rolls of hay in multiple layers, cover each stack with a secured, heavy tarp. Don’t stack bales if they will be stored for more than six to 12 months.

• Check tarps and plastic periodically to make sure they remain secure.

• Feed the hay as soon as possible and when livestock nutritional requirements are lowest.

Round bales stored outside are subject to precipitation and soil moisture. If the bales stay wet for long periods, mold and rot can develop, Davis notes. The overall feed quality of the hay eventually will drop.

Contact Davis at the Clark County Cooperative Extension Service at 859-744-4682.