One of the joys of early autumn is a full hayloft or shed. Before you load up the bales, however, take some time to prepare the space in a way that preserves the quality of the hay in it.
First, check the roof for leaks. Telltale signs are wet spots on the floor after a rain, but you can also close any doors to darken the space and then look up for pinpoints of sunlight streaming through defects in the roof.
Next, consider the floor. Remove any bales currently stored and sweep the space clean. Be on the lookout for signs of rodent infestation, such as excessive droppings or nests. If the floor is smooth and raised, such as plywood in a loft over a barn, you can stack the new bales directly on it. If, however, the floor is dirt or concrete, it can wick moisture up to the stored hay. In that case, you’ll want to put down tarp to act as a barrier and put pallets on top of it to allow air to circulate beneath the bales. This will keep the bottom layer of bales dry. (If the walls of your hay-storage space are cinder block or concrete, you will have the same moisture-wicking issue. In that case, make sure your stacked hay doesn’t touch the walls.)
Finally, scrutinize the door and any windows to ensure they shut tightly and do not leak. If it doesn’t have one already, consider adding a horse-proof latch to the door to protect your hay from stall and paddock escapees who may be looking to raid the hay stash.
When the storage area is prepped, stack the new hay inside neatly, then place the older bales toward the front of the area where they will be used first. Nutrients in hay degrade over time, so you don’t want bales sitting around uneaten any longer than necessary.
This article first appeared in the October 2017 issue of EQUUS (Volume #481)