More than 50% of hay produced is wasted by poor storage, improper feeding practices or both, says Steve Barnhart, Iowa State University extension agronomist. He points out that many round hay bales are stored incorrectly, contributing to dry matter and nutrient loss before feeding.

Under average weather conditions, a large round bale stored unprotected outside on the ground will lose 25-35% of its dry matter and nutritive quality, says Barnhart. He cites University of Kentucky figures that show storing bales on gravel pads reduces dry matter losses to 20%. A pad is expected to last about 10 years after an initial cost of around $4,000. Covering those bales with tarp further reduces dry matter loss to 10%. Bales covered with plastic bale wrap lose 7% of dry matter, and bales stored inside lose about 5%. "A permanent roof cover for the hay storage site can be quite economical, depending on the initial cost and any alternate uses that the structure can provide," Barnhart says.

Read more about Barnhart's storage and feeding suggestions online at

Source: Iowa State University Integrated Crop Management Newsletter.