– Stan Smith, PA OSU Extension, Fairfield County
For the first time in years, this past spring I had the opportunity to attend a session of the Ohio FFA Convention. While it brought back a lot of memories from both my early experiences as well as those of our older boys, it was good to see that some new things have been added. In particular I enjoyed walking through the Agriscience Fair displays that have become a part of this annual event.
For the Agriscience Fair, FFA members are invited to conduct a scientific research project pertaining to the agriculture and food science industries and present their findings along with a display and a report to a judge during the first day of the Convention. As we focus on hay storage this week I’ll share one particular project that caught my eye.
For her research project, Emily Dickson, a high school sophomore in the Utica FFA, chose “Hay Covering 101.” During last winter Emily took a close look at 11 different hay storage alternatives which included simply sitting string tied bales outside, different net wraps, tarps, bonnets and inside storage. As you might imagine, what Emily discovered through her project is that hay stored in a fashion that exposes it to the elements deteriorates over the winter, easily costing producers 10 to 16% or more of the total nutrients originally found in the hay at harvest. She concluded:
There are many types of hay wraps and covers on the market and each one comes with a cost. At the same time the more expensive covers can provide a substantial savings in hay and may save the farmer money in the long run.
A good hay wrap and covering system combined can really pay dividends each year. Many farmers do not have the luxury to store round bales of hay inside. When not storing hay inside or under a tarp it is best to use a good quality net wrap and not to use twine. A good quality net wrap can save a farmer hundreds of dollars each year from wasted hay. The dollar value of net wrapped hay is also increased when trying to market that same hay to customers.
If at all possible use a quality net wrap, keep the hay off of the ground, and under a water proof covering. Less hay wasted means more hay you can sell and dollars in your pocket.
I understand that next year Emily plans to continue to explore deeper into hay storage alternatives. I look forward to seeing what she discovers. In the meantime it’s apparent that Emily’s research for her FFA Agriscience Fair project fully supports John Grimes’ thoughts below on the subject . . . it pays to properly store hay!