What should you do if you can’t afford expensive hay storage ideas like barns?
Will you leave your precious hay out in the rain?
I’ve been in this very position and had to come up with a budget-friendly way to keep my hay dry and clean after I got a large delivery when I didn’t have much to spend and no storage building.
I had to figure out some ways to store hay and wanted to share the ideas I learned about with you here.
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1. Build a Simple, Inexpensive Hay Shelter Idea
A simple hay shelter will eliminate the risks of feeding wet hay. Hay forms molds when exposed to snow or rain.
Feeding your livestock hay with mold exposes them to digestive issues. The situation is worse in horses as the mycotoxins in mold can lead to colic and even death (1).
There is a wide range of hay shelter ideas you can use. This is an idea that I used myself and found it worked really well during the wet and windy winters where I live.
Here’s how to make it; a helper is great, but you can build this hay shelter by yourself as well. Let’s see what you need and how it’s done with the following materials:
- Poles or metal rods
- Rope or bungee cords
- Sandbags or stones
- Wooden pallets
- Choose an area not too close to your house or other buildings. You don’t want the hay shelter to be a fire hazard. Somewhere level is better, and it is even better if you can place your pallets on a concrete surface.
- Erect the poles and cover them with tarps. Use the ropes or bungee cords to secure the tarps in place.
- Place the wooden pallets on the ground before placing hay on top to protect it from rodents and moisture. Storing hay directly on the ground causes a 25 to 30 percent loss (2).
- Cover the whole structure with another layer of tarpaulin and weigh it down with sandbags or stones.
Make sure to check out our list of the best sand for horse paddocks.
2. Cover Your Hay With a Tarp For Another Inexpensive Storage Idea
Covering your hay with a tarp is one of the best outdoor hay storage ideas.
Tarps make excellent top covers for hay, and they’re pretty cheap! These materials are waterproof and will protect your hay from rain. I’ve tried this myself, and it did the job well.
Covering your hay with tarpaulins is economical, and you don’t have to worry about the cost. Moreover, there is no need to hire an expert to set up the tarps for you as the process is simple.
You need the following to cover your hay with a tarp:
- Rope or bungee cords
- Sandbags or stones
- Choose an area that is dry and flat. You don’t want water pooling on top of your hay.
- Lay the tarps on the ground and place the hay in the middle.
- Fold the tarps over the hay, ensuring it’s well covered.
- Use ropes or bungee cords to secure the tarps in place.
- Weigh down the edges of the tarps with sandbags or stones to keep them from blowing away.
You can place wooden pallets below the tarpaulin. These aid in forming a moisture barrier and allow free air circulation within hay bales.
If you want a reusable tarp, ensure it’s thick. A thicker quality tarp is a one-time investment that can be used for years.
The video below shows more hay tarping tips:
3. Store Your Hay in an Empty Grain Silo
An empty grain silo is an excellent place to store your hay. These structures are good at protecting grain from the weather.
Grain silos are also big enough to store a lot of hay. This solution is a bit more labor intensive but is a good bale storage option.
Storing hay in a raised structure like a grain silo ensures free air circulation within the bales. Thus, you can rest assured that the hay is unlikely to form mold due to moisture.
The only downside is that you will need a crane to load the hay into the silo.
You need the following to store your hay in a grain silo:
- Grain silo
- Hire a crane to load the hay into the grain silo. Distribute the hay, so it doesn’t form a big pile in the middle.
- Cover the opening of the grain silo with a tarp to keep the hay dry.
4. Use an Old Refrigerator or Freezer
At the mention of a freezer, I know you’re thinking of your hay becoming wet and extremely cold. It’s not that way as you’ll do some modifications on the refrigerator or freezer.
Old freezers and refrigerators can provide additional indoor storage for your hay. I’ve used this and currently use an old, huge walk-in freeze to store grain barrels.
You need the following to store your hay in an old refrigerator or freezer:
- Large walk-in refrigerator or freezer. It does not need to be in working order as you won’t turn it on.
- Remove the refrigerator or freezer doors and shelves to create more space. You can do this by unscrewing the hinges.
- Lay a tarp on the ground and place the refrigerator or freezer on top.
- Fill the refrigerator or freezer with hay, ensuring it is well distributed.
- Cover the opening of the refrigerator or freezer with a tarp to keep the hay dry.
If you want, you can place the door back on, but it’s unnecessary.
Imagine waking up to find your hay soaked in moisture or eaten by rodents. To avoid this, you must choose a storage facility that will keep your hay safe from moisture and rodents.
Hay is can be expensive and must be preserved well. Dusty or moldy hay will harm your horse’s health. To avoid waste and potentially fatal illness, it is important to cover your hay, even if you use a budget storage idea.
Also, hay is a limited resource, especially if summer weather conditions mean that less can be cut. You need to buy hay in bulk and in advance, so having a way to store it safely is essential.
Paul McGill, a hay auction company owner, says, “At the beginning of the summer drought, it didn’t hurt us too much (3). But the ranchers started thinking ahead, knowing they’d need the hay to feed later, so they held onto the hay they had. That started dwindling the hay that was coming to us in Iowa.”
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Can you store hay in a plastic container?
No, you cannot store hay in plastic containers because they don’t allow free air circulation.
Can you store hay in a garage?
Yes, you can store hay in a garage, but you must be careful not to use fire in the garage. Dry hay is highly flammable and can catch fire anytime. Also, you need to ensure it isn’t exposed to any chemicals that are often kept in garages.
Should hay be covered?
Yes, hay should be covered. If left uncovered, hay will absorb moisture and get spoilt.
How to store hay without a barn?
You can store hay without a barn by placing it on wooden pallets and covering it with a tarp.
Not everybody has the luxury of owning a spacious barn to store hay. Thus, these inexpensive hay storage ideas will come in handy if you need to save on hay storage costs.
They definitely helped me when I was stuck without a good barn and a small budget.
Implement an idea that will work best for you according to your available resources. Furthermore, don’t forget to monitor the hay regularly to ensure it’s in good condition.
Do you know other simple hay storage ideas? Please share with us below!
- 1. Mold and Mycotoxins in Horse Hay [Internet]. Penn State Extension. Available from: https://extension.psu.edu/mold-and-mycotoxins-in-horse-hay
- 2. Hay Storage: Dry Matter Losses and Quality Changes | Mississippi State University Extension Service [Internet]. extension.msstate.edu. [cited 2022 Jun 29]. Available from: http://extension.msstate.edu/publications/publications/hay-storage-dry-matter-losses-and-quality-changes
- 3. Hay Shortage Grows, Prices Nearly Double [Internet]. Successful Farming. 2018. Available from: https://www.agriculture.com/news/crops/hay-shortage-grows-prices-nearly-double
Bryanna is a 23-year-old Florida-based Grade 1 Para-dressage rider based in Florida and she has been riding for 5 years. Horses are her passion and her ultimate goal is to be selected for the US Para-Equestrian Team and represent the US at the Paralympics. She rides at Quantum Leap Farm and Emerald M Therapeutic Riding Center and her equine partners are Shane, an American Paint Horse, and Cappy a Welsh x Thoroughbred. When she is not helping at the barn, riding, or training, she is learning about horses, writing articles about them, and using her social media platforms to raise awareness for therapeutic riding and para-equestrianism, shares her journey, and advocates for greater inclusion of para-equestrian in the media and equestrian sport at large.
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