Hay in barn - how bad is it, really? - The Horse Forum
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post #1 of 21 Old 05-24-2019, 09:46 AM Thread Starter
Green Broke
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Hay in barn - how bad is it, really?

Thinking some more about my new barn setup. This barn has a hayloft that was converted to a, I guess you could say studio room. It's now fully insulated with lots of windows, a patio (!), carpeting, access from outside via stairs, etc. My husband and I are currently fighting over who gets it: him and his woodturning stuff, or me (it could be a gorgeous home office). I don't really want to convert it back to hay storage. I also don't want to build another building.

This leaves me with storing hay in the actual barn. I've read two reasons not to do this: (1) dust causes irritation to lungs and mucus membranes of horses, and (2) fire risk. However, I'm planning on setting up the barn as run-in stalls, so I don't think either of these will be a big deal, because (1) it will be well aired out, with those open doors and the horses can come and go as they please and (2) in the terrible case of a fire, the horses can just run out. I'm also thinking I will buy a hay thermometer to keep an eye on temperatures, just to be on the safe side. The area where I could store it would be somewhere between 10 x 15 and 12 x 20, and I think the ceiling is about 12 feet high (I know not to store it all the way up to the ceiling), so I figure I could easily store 100 square bales or around two tons of hay in there. With three horses and about six-eight acres of good pasture, I figure that should be enough for a year. If not, it will still keep us for a while.

Do you guys think this would be OK? I'm also thinking that maybe tarping it would help keep dust down. This is in the PNW so storing just outdoors, even under a tarp, is probably not a good idea.
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post #2 of 21 Old 05-24-2019, 09:54 AM
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When I had to store 10-15 bales at a time on the ground floor of the barn, I lost most of it to mold. Our barn has a poorly done concrete floor without an adequate vapor barrier, so that certainly didnít help. So having it up in the loft with decent air circulation is a must for me. It gets pretty humid in New England and I imagine much worse for you.
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post #3 of 21 Old 05-24-2019, 10:22 AM
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If you put hay on pallets and not on actual floor of barn it will be fine,don't tarp it if it's humid where you live. Leave it uncovered it's already inside so no need to tarp.
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post #4 of 21 Old 05-24-2019, 10:28 AM
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So all the yards I have been/am at have either:

- bought/rent a lorry container and use that to store hay - on pallets
- keep it in the backs of each stall (end of every stall has a tack room, they mostly stuff it with hay allocated that horse for the week). Not really an issue I've found unless its the really crap stuff
- keep it in a glorified shed (seen metal, plastic and wood) but on pallets
- if big wrapped bales all the places I've been at just dump them out of the way, outside, but on pallets and ignore them in all weather lol
- kept X amount in the barn in a disused stall.. on pallets

edit: seriously. pallets.
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post #5 of 21 Old 05-24-2019, 10:34 AM
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I would not store hay outdoors in the PNW.
Even the most careful of tarping is inviting trouble without some sort of roof and sided shelter...besides the animals that will make a entry point to make nests and homes in those bales from outdoor weather protection you just offered.
Without a solid floor structure also underneath, the amount of moisture in that region asks for trouble...

No matter where you store your hay though use heavy-duty pallets and stack it on them.
{Tractor Supply by me throws them out. Rural King sells some for $3.00 a piece and the farm supply store charges $1.00}
If you are on a dirt floor, even a concrete slab put down a vapor barrier, a sheet of plastic so ground moisture is not drawn into your bottom wrack of hay.
Air circulation... helps a lot.
Buy hay that is cured, then baled at the correct moisture amount.
Buy bales that are tightly strung,...
I throw down bales flat and they literally land & go thud, or if I want to bounce them so they land further down the barn aisle I pitched to land on a corner or end...and they bounced, occasionally split too.
Always loosely cover your hay so dust and airborne dirt and contaminants, including bird poop not soil your fresh hay bales. Just place a tarp over the hay...that's it.
My tarps range in size and I do switch them out as my supply diminishes so I not fight the excess tarp size. My hay though is completely covered loosely by tarp over the top to the ground...

I keep my hay currently in a empty stall, 12'x12, rafter height is 10' and I stack to the rafter and my roof is open above that..
I can stack 100 bales and still have a alleyway to walk across the entire front of the stall. My bales range between 55 -70 pounds each, solid bales.
I also use tarps and hang them to protect the hay from sunburn and bleaching keeps it looking nicer, the horses like it better and honestly not sure if it helps nutrients be retained better.
You can't get much more humid that Florida either come summer and I have "0" issue of mold, mildew or ruined hay...
Get a good haymen and when you find him, stick with him/her.
My guy is great. He has horses so knows the value of processing hay correctly or pay the price, sick horses.
Use your nose...if the hay doesn't smell fresh and sunshine clean, well, it would not be in my barn or fed.
I left a store who sold hay that smelled funny, slightly rank and moldy on some bales...if it is in some it is most likely in more than you see since loads are from the same fields, cuttings and baling...buyer beware!!
If it doesn't look nice, smell nice, be tightly packed and when you lift a bale the strings are tight with no sag...walk away!
When I worked the show/boarding/lesson barns in my younger days we used the hay lofts and had shipments of 10 - 15 ton delivered at a time..that was on LI so yes, we had humid weather.
I fed out 30 bales a day so our deliveries did not last or sit around long..except our alfalfa supply.
That also came 10 - 15 ton deliveries...stored the same way and again no issues.

So, that's my tips for happy fed horses and no issues have I had with mold, heat or fires..

The worst day is instantly better when shared with my horse.....
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post #6 of 21 Old 05-24-2019, 11:38 AM
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I use pallets on my barn floor and I store 20 ton a year. If it is sitting on pallets I lose little to none due to mold. I throw the bales out of the barn so they go for a bit of a tumble and then load them on a tractor and stack by my horses once every ten days or so. The tumble knocks off any dust and putting 10 days worth at a time out right by their paddock means I don't have to haul single loads every day. It rains a lot in this mountain range I live in so I stack them under a big pine tree and they stay dry enough that I get no mold on 10 days worth.

Anything worth doing, is worth doing well.
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post #7 of 21 Old 05-24-2019, 11:39 AM
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I got the pallets for free from a plant farm, they go through hundreds a year and they were just going to burn them so they said if I came and loaded them myself I could have as many as I wanted for free.
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post #8 of 21 Old 05-24-2019, 12:04 PM
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Although fire is a risk, I store all my hay in the barn loft, which is very well vented with hay loading doors on each end and a vented cupola. I do not have another place to store a winter's worth of hay (about 350 bales) and it is designed for that purpose.

It's been intolerably wet even for New England but my hay is perfectly dry. I didn't use pallets. On the other hand I have lost bales to mold on the ground floor even on pallets. I only store a few days worth of bales at a time down there.
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post #9 of 21 Old 05-24-2019, 12:26 PM
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With regard to your husband using the former loft as a woodworking place - would that create dust? Also, would that be an increased possibility of fire due to power tool usage, stains and paints, etc?

I store about a monthís worth of hay in my barn on pallets (Weíve got a dirt floor) with no issue. It would be safer to not store in the barn but the hay gets recycled in that itís fed and then new replacements brought in and, being very honest, itís really nice having hay close at hand during the hard part of the winter when thereís miserable days where you donít have the emotional strength to struggle out to the hay stack.

I do have a tarp on to keep dust down - itís amazing how dusty the top of the tarp gets in a relatively short time but that means thatís dust thatís not making its way into a bale. The tarp is loosely draped over top to allow for air circulation and rodent patrol by the cats although I think they just use the spot for sleeping.

Perhaps, at some point you may want to put up a pole shed (roof and partial sides) to store hay after youíre settled??? With uncomplicated construction like that, it may not be that expensive.
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post #10 of 21 Old 05-24-2019, 01:47 PM
Green Broke
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We store about 30 round bales in the barn. It's ventilated on all four sides in the summer (we close up three sides for winter) and the horses have half of it as a big run-in. If the bales are properly-cured and your electrical system is safe and nobody is smoking or doing anything that could cause a spark in the barn, it's probably safe enough. Most hay fires are due to improperly-cured hay that overheats and ignites, or hay that got wet and then molded. We keep our hay up on pallets and don't have a mold problem.

I would not put a woodworking shop in a horse barn. A family down the road from us lost their barn, a dog, and their tractor when the cabinet-making workshop they built in their barn caused a fire. The fire marshal ruled that paint thinner or varnish on rags was the cause. They had finished some cabinets and gone to the house to eat, and the fire was raging half an hour later when they looked outside. Dust in the air will also ignite in the right conditions, so it's a risk. A home office sounds like a safer bet as long as the electrical is updated and you shut everything down when you're not using it. I'd be more worried about a woodworking shop in the barn than dry, properly-cured hay.
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