Planning Your Annual Hay Supply
Maxine Kinne

Safe Hay Storage

High stacks can be unstable.
Four layers are shown in this stacking pattern. For a stack
higher than four layers, start
the pattern over with layer 2.

  If you are lucky enough to have a large storage area, you can buy enough hay to last through the winter. First, you must estimate how much the herd will need for as long you want the supply to last. Many areas of the country are prone to extreme weather conditions, like spring flooding and summer drought, so it may be a good idea to have extra hay in the event of an emergency.

Goats generally eat between 3% to 6% of their body weight in dry matter per day. Consumption levels vary and depend on hay quality and the animals' productive stage.

To figure the weight of your herd, use a dairy goat weight tape or a dressmaker's tape measure (conversion chart for Pygmies and conversion chart for dairy goats). Be sure to account for the growth and increasing needs of kids you expect to have born and any young replacement purchased stock throughout the year. Also make allowances for wasteful mangers. If you cannot fix or replace inefficient hay feeders, estimate the amount of wasted hay and include it in the total.

Herd Weight  x 6 lbs x Days Fed + Waste/Spoilage = Total Hay Needed

Once you know how much you need, make sure you have sufficient storage space for it. Loosely baled hay weighs about 6 pounds per cubic foot, so a ton requires 333 cubic feet (width x depth x height). Tightly baled hay weighs about 12 pounds per cubic foot and takes up 167 cubic feet of space. The length of the hay within the bales also contributes to fluctuating bale weight; long-stemmed, non-conditioned hay can weigh 1/3 less than short-stemmed, conditioned hay.

Hay loss due to spoilage can be up to 50%, depending on how it was handled before you bought it and how you store it. Protect your investment from the elements. Lay a plastic moisture barrier on the ground and store the hay on wooden pallets. This will prevent moisture from wicking up into the stack. Leave enough room between the stack and the wall for some air circulation. If your roof leaks, divert water away from the hay stack by attaching one end of a plastic barrier to the roof to make a sort of tent.

During the first 6 to 8 weeks, periodically check the hay stack for heated areas as close to the center as possible. Wet or improperly cured hay (too much moisture) can ferment and develop enough heat inside the stack to spontaneously combust. Ideally, the moisture content of hay should be under 20%. Check several areas by working a steel pipe down into the stack, then lower in a thermometer on a string. Ideally, you can quit worrying about spontaneous combustion about six weeks after it is baled and properly stored.

Layers 1 and 4

Layer 2

Layer 3


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