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Hay Storage - How long do I have?

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  • Hay Storage - How long do I have?

    This is my first year needing to buy my own hay, in years past I've lived places where the feed shop made it was easy to buy hay. Where I am now, I can only find really stemmy Coastal/Bermuda/who knows what mix.

    So, I'm finding a hay guy right now, and found someone that buys hay from their parent's farm up in Ohio and purchased too much. It's a great price, so I want to buy as much as I can store, but wondering if I'm going to overdo it?

    I have one TB of my own, plus a friend's horse that stays at the property (TB, slightly easier keeper). Neither horse eats hay regularly enough to gauge it that way (2 flakes x 30 days x 3 horses or that kind of math.) Basically it's free choice and some days they eat all of it, but I really only have to replace a few days a week. My pasture is still really green, and I have an entire winter pasture ready for when this one goes.

    Given I'm doing all of the things right (no ground moisture bc I'm keeping it in a matted stall, plus up on pallets, and zero leaks/moisture from weather) - about how long can I expect a load of alfalfa/ alf mix to stay edible?
    Last edited by _Zara; Nov. 29, 2019, 07:36 PM.

  • #2
    I have kept hay 12 months or more and it has been fine. I have it in an upstairs hay loft closely packed and tarped. This is damp PNW and if it isn't tarped in fall winter spring the outside of the hay gets mold spores from ambient moisture. If I accidentally have a bale not fully tarped the exposed end gets sporey and I have to chuck that flake.

    My mare gets about 500 lbs a month so a ton last me 4 months so I need about 3 tons a year. I don't have room to store that much only about a ton and a half maximum. So I end up getting hay about 3 times a year. The stuff that gets old is if there are a couple bales at the back that keep getting lost behind new loads.

    This is 110 lb Timothy 3 string bales so it sits where the hay dealer stacks it. 50 lb bales I would shift around more.

    I have also had alfalfa that I've doled out over a year and it's been fine.

    Remember that if say your hay is baled in August then any hay you buy say the next May is still 9 months old, it's been sitting at the hay dealer or farmer. It's not any fresher though delivery does knock some of the spores off

    In other words if your storage is good it's as safe at your barn as at the hay dealers

    I've also fed hay that's more than 12 months old ie finishing up say a summer 2017 load in fall 2018 and it's fine.

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    Last edited by Scribbler; Nov. 29, 2019, 05:14 PM.

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    • #3
      We have mature horses and feed strictly alfalfa.
      We buy each year to feed it next year.
      We like to feed a year old hay, so we can feed more, as it will be very well cured.
      Mostly hay loses the first few months Vitamin A, very little else.
      This is the way many here feed alfalfa hay.

      Has worked for us, our vet tells us to keep doing what we are doing.
      Our horses look great and don't have any health problems from our feed management.
      Properly baled and stored alfalfa will last a few years.

      Now, hay from other regions, that you may have to ask the ones baling it what they think?

      The hay on the little stack on the right is what is left of 2017, already fed.
      The ones on the left by the ladders we are feeding this winter, from 2018.
      The greener hay in the middle is 2019 hay, to be fed next year:

      Comment

      • Original Poster

        #4
        Scribbler and Bluey , I SO appreciate the information. You guys are why I COTH. I'm going to order everything he's got and stack it in the one crappy stall I have that I'll never put a horse in, plus fill up my hay building.

        Feeling much more confident about my first Big Girl hay purchase!

        Comment


        • #5
          Much hay is cut once a year so I would feel very confident storing it a year. Whenever you actually take delivery of it, it could be many months old anyway. I've fed out hay a bit older than that too, as long as it's stored to be dry and doesn't get super dusty it has a long shelf life. If for some reason I still had two year old hay I'd still feed it out if not moldy or dusty.
          If you are allergic to a thing, it is best not to put that thing in your mouth, particularly if the thing is cats. - Lemony Snicket

          Comment


          • #6
            Hay lasts indefinitely if stored well. Keeping a year or two before feeding it is fine.

            Comment


            • #7
              I get most of my hay right out of the field and either feed it right away or store it for up to and over a year. I feed some leftover hay from the sellers of my farm that was probably 2 years old. I put it in nets and the easy keepers munched on it and ate it all. I try to purchase enough hay to last me to second cut, this year many farmers did not have a first cut so I was glad I did it. On average you would feed 100 bales per horse per year, depending on how much hay you like to feed, how much your horse needs to maintain weight, how much they waste, and how much grass you have. So since I have 4 horses I like to have 400 bales in my barn by the end of second cut. If I get lower quality hay then I put it in nets and they eat it all instead of waste it, and I try to feed the low quality hay in the evening, when they have all night to pick through it, plus it keeps them busy.

              You should plan on losing at least part of your bottom layer, it seems no matter how carefully I prepare at least a few bales get wet. If you put it in a loft any that is in the sun will bleach, which doesn't seem to affect edibility.

              If you over buy you can always sell it in the spring for as much as you paid when people who didn't prepare are desperate. Do not expect to find hay easily in March, do expect to drive across state lines and pay A LOT for it.
              http://weanieeventer.blogspot.com/

              Comment


              • #8
                poltroon Maybe that's a West Coast thing.
                Around here most hay gets at least 2 cuttings, a 3rd if weather permits.
                That goes for grass hay mixes & alfalfa.

                _Zara For my horse, pony, mini I go through around 7 tons = 300 45-50# small square bales.
                I buy my year's worth from 1st cutting & store all of it in a 12X24X10' high area inside my barn on wood pallets.
                I have decent pasture, far from lush. Some grass is still available for grazing even now.
                Hay consumption varies with weather.
                In Summer a bale last 2 or 3 days. Lately I am going through a bale a day.
                Horses are out 24/7, they have free access to stalls & come in for hay & grain.
                If we get a stretch of Winter weather that's cold but not nasty, I'll toss out a couple flakes they can "graze" on.

                Any hay left in Spring when they start cutting around here, gets fed fed mixed with the new hay until it's gone.

                If you don't have room to store a year's worth, most hayguys here will let you pay for the whole lot, then store it for you.
                You either pick up yourself or have delivered.
                *friend of bar.ka*RIP all my lovely boys, gone too soon:
                Steppin' Out 1988-2004
                Hey Vern! 1982-2009, Cash's Bay Threat 1994-2009
                Sam(Jaybee Altair) 1994-2015

                Comment

                • Original Poster

                  #9
                  Thanks to you all for your responses! I really appreciate it.

                  For the past few years I've slowly gained more control over my horses care (full board, to full board but I had to buy grain/plan nutrition, now to fully DIY) and having the wisdom of a community is the only way I've kept everyone alive and in good health Maybe I'm selling myself a bit short, as I was quite the anal 4-H kid and absorbed a lot from those years, but it's so helpful to have such experienced advice shared and I am extremely grateful for everyone who took the time to help educate me on buying and storing forage!

                  If anyone is in an area that has a hay guy that would deliver to NC, PM me?

                  I've been using HayMap and personal references to track it down so far.

                  Comment

                  • Original Poster

                    #10
                    Originally posted by enjoytheride View Post

                    You should plan on losing at least part of your bottom layer, it seems no matter how carefully I prepare at least a few bales get wet. If you put it in a loft any that is in the sun will bleach, which doesn't seem to affect edibility.
                    I once boarded at a place where we had a flood. The water line was so high, my entire little rubbermaid 3-drawer plastic grooming thing had every single drawer filled to the brim with nasty floodwater (at least 3 feet.) We kept our tack in the same building that was used to store hay, and we clearly saw the water line on the giant stack of hay.

                    I was horrified when the barn manager informed me that hay would be just fine and they'd be feeding it. Our farm was on the edge a freeway, and a national forest. All of that water was soaked with the juices of whatever wildlife was wiped out by mega flood, plus highway runoff. I left before the hay pile got that low (transferred for work) but it blew my mind that someone would actually do that.

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Hay can last a long time if stored well. One year after we lost all our first cut at the farm I was managing, I ended up feeding hay that (if memory serves) was 7 years old as their out side rations and our second cut inside. The old hay while faded looking, was pretty nice still and all the horses came out of the winter looking great. The nutritional value wouldn't have been as good as newer hay of course, but the nice second cut and their grain kept everyone fat and sassy.
                      Last edited by jvanrens; Nov. 29, 2019, 07:21 PM. Reason: Autocorrect...
                      ~~Some days are a total waste of makeup.~~

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Each year, we buy enough hay in August/September to last a year and then we rinse and repeat the following year. We have been doing it that way for decades. I grew up riding at a barn that did the same thing. As long as the hay is properly cured and stored, you'll be fine

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          I regularly feed hay (not alfalfa, it is timothy, orchard grass) that is 18 months old. Not a problem as long as it stays dry.

                          But I thought you said in a post 2 days ago that you were switching to full board.
                          Janet

                          chief feeder and mucker for Music, Belle and Tiara. Someone else is now feeding and mucking for Chief and Brain (both foxhunting now). Spy is gone. April 15, 1982 to Jan 10, 2019.

                          Comment

                          • Original Poster

                            #14
                            Originally posted by Janet View Post
                            But I thought you said in a post 2 days ago that you were switching to full board.
                            I'm considering keeping my small property simply because of how inexpensive it is, but whatever I decide, my friend still has her horse there. Still have to buy hay for at least her horse, and would like to keep some around in case I bring mine home for a break or something.

                            The board difference is massive, so if something happens while I'm bringing along my mare (that is a wonderful prospect, but currently pretty unproven) I'd like to have the opportunity to go back to a few hundred a month instead of a 4-fig retirement board bill. It's an affordable insurance plan. My friend is going to take care of her horse (who needs much, much less hands on care than mine) and if he needs a buddy, she can get him one. I like having the option to come home if boarding isn't what it's cracked up to be, and since I can afford it, why not?
                            Last edited by _Zara; Nov. 29, 2019, 08:18 PM.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by 2DogsFarm View Post
                              poltroon Maybe that's a West Coast thing.
                              Around here most hay gets at least 2 cuttings, a 3rd if weather permits.
                              That goes for grass hay mixes & alfalfa.
                              Depends on whether it's irrigated or not, how else the field is used, how much rain and sun we got. Unirrigated grass hay in a dry winter is often just one cutting. Irrigated alfalfa in some places they get 6-8 cuttings. In any case usually my hay guy sells grass hay to me out of a particular cutting once a year.

                              In any case, it's not like you can believe that any particular hay you get is "fresh" unless you saw it getting baled. Storage conditions matter more than age.
                              If you are allergic to a thing, it is best not to put that thing in your mouth, particularly if the thing is cats. - Lemony Snicket

                              Comment


                              • #16
                                Originally posted by poltroon View Post

                                Depends on whether it's irrigated or not, how else the field is used, how much rain and sun we got. Unirrigated grass hay in a dry winter is often just one cutting. Irrigated alfalfa in some places they get 6-8 cuttings. In any case usually my hay guy sells grass hay to me out of a particular cutting once a year.

                                In any case, it's not like you can believe that any particular hay you get is "fresh" unless you saw it getting baled. Storage conditions matter more than age.
                                Yup, West Coast thing.
                                No farmer here irrigates a hayfield.
                                It's Nature or nothing.
                                We had a rainy Spring that delayed 1st cutting until nearly July. Almost nobody got more than 2 cuttings, some as late as October.

                                And, I can tell if a load has been recently baled.
                                Hayguy is my neighbor & I sometimes help out by driving the wagon through a field as it is being baled. One guy drives the baler, 2nd bucks bales onto the wagon.
                                Loaded wagons often come directly to my indoor to dry until sold if rain might ruin them stored outdoors.
                                Bales are stacked so well that I have never seen a bale go bad on the wagons.
                                Or, for that matter, the bales stacked on pallets in my barn (never right from the field).
                                They always leave me at least 2/3 of the indoor to ride.
                                My indoor is currently storing 4 loaded wagons - including 2 huge cage wagons that hold 400 bales each.
                                None of this hay is mine, all for hayguy's horses or sale to the Grasshoppers that have not yet bought their Winter supply.
                                *friend of bar.ka*RIP all my lovely boys, gone too soon:
                                Steppin' Out 1988-2004
                                Hey Vern! 1982-2009, Cash's Bay Threat 1994-2009
                                Sam(Jaybee Altair) 1994-2015

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  Your location will make a big difference in storing hay. I live in the hot, humid Southeast and mold is a big issue for me. December, January, February I can usually store hay for a while, but any other month of the year I try not to keep hay for more than 3 weeks. It's a real pain.

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Ditto STB. Although I can keep it longer than 3 weeks. It is just damp here and although the hay is stored inside I have problems with mold. Especially in the summer months. Cold and damp doesn't seem to promote mold growth like warm and damp. However back when I was in a self care situation and the barn had a huge hayloft I never had mold problems.

                                    No way could I store hay for a year and still have it feedable. Just too humid here.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Originally posted by 2DogsFarm View Post
                                      None of this hay is mine, all for hayguy's horses or sale to the Grasshoppers that have not yet bought their Winter supply.
                                      rarely if ever do I keep more than a month or two of hay on hand, but I do sign purchase contracts for a year or 15 months of hay with my supplier who buys the hay from out of state. They are constantly getting shipments in every week.

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        Originally posted by poltroon View Post
                                        In any case, it's not like you can believe that any particular hay you get is "fresh" unless you saw it getting baled. Storage conditions matter more than age.
                                        While I don't SEE it baled, I do get it direct from the guy who grows it. I let him know how much I want. Sometimes he has some already harvested. If not. he calls me when he is harvesting it, and puts it straight on the delivery truck instead of the hay wagon.

                                        Janet

                                        chief feeder and mucker for Music, Belle and Tiara. Someone else is now feeding and mucking for Chief and Brain (both foxhunting now). Spy is gone. April 15, 1982 to Jan 10, 2019.

                                        Comment

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