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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


Location: Dairy Forage Research

Title: Storage characteristics of large round alfalfa bales: dry hay

item Shinners, Kevin
item Huenink, Brian
item Muck, Richard
item Albrecht, Kenneth

Submitted to: Transactions of the ASABE
Publication Type: Peer Reviewed Journal
Publication Acceptance Date: 1/5/2009
Publication Date: 3/2/2009
Citation: Shinners, K.J., Huenink, B.M., Muck, R.E., Albrecht, K.A. 2009. Storage characteristics of large round alfalfa bales: dry hay. Transactions of the ASABE. 52(2):409-418.

Interpretive Summary: A common way to make hay is in large round bales. These bales are frequently stored outside, but losses from outside storage can be substantial. In this study, we looked at how various means of making and storing large round bales affected losses after 5 and 11 months of storage. On average the bales stored inside lost 1.9% of the dry crop. Losses in bales stored outside on soil depended upon how well the treatment kept the bales dry. Bales held together with sisal twine had the largest losses from outside storage (19.5%) whereas losses in bales made with plastic twine (10.6%) or a plastic mesh called net wrap (7.2%) were much lower. Putting plastic covers on the tops of bales reduced losses to 4.5%. If bales stored outside were placed on pallets rather than soil, losses were reduced by 4 percentage points. These results will be useful to farmers who store large round bales outside, helping them make better decisions about how to make and store their bales.

Technical Abstract: Losses of forage dry matter (DM) and quality in large round bales of alfalfa stored outdoors can be substantial. The objective of this research was to determine the effect of wrap type and storage method on the preservation of dry alfalfa bales stored outdoors. Several methods to wrap large round dry hay bales of alfalfa/grass and grass/alfalfa were investigated, including: sisal twine (ST), plastic twine (PT), to-edge net wrap (TEN), cover-edge net wrap (CEN), plastic bale covers (BC) and indoor storage (IS). Some outdoor storage treatments were split between storing either directly on the ground or on a well-drained surface. Storage characteristics were quantified by moisture in the outer layer versus time, final moisture distribution, DM loss and nutrient retention. Storage length was either 5 or 11 months. Net wrap bales consistently had lower moisture in the outer layer and lower DM loss than twine wrapped bales. Net wrapped bales shed more water than twine wrapped bales, so storing on a well-drained surface was important to reduce damage to the bottom of the bale. Average DM loss across all trials was 19.5, 11.3 and 7.3% of DM for ST, PT, and TEN/CEN treatments, respectively. Compared to other treatments, DM losses were significantly less for BC and IS bales. Storing on a well drained surface reduced DM losses for all treatments. Net wrapped bales tended to have better nutrient retention in the outer layer than twine wrapped bales, but nutrient retention in the bale core was unaffected by wrapping or storage treatment. Wrapping with net wrap increased baling productivity by 32% and reduced losses during wrapping by 65% compared to wrapping with twine. Wrapping bales of alfalfa with a mesh net wrap and storing on a well-drained surface will substantially reduce losses of forage DM and quality compared to wrapping bales with twine.

Last Modified: 10/20/2017
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