How long does hay typically last under cover but outdoors in the PNW? Does it mold quickly or generally stay good if kept out of the rain? I am considering buying some good hay this summer for cows that will arriving next spring but don't want to waste money if it's going to get moldy on me over a winter.
On pallets under a real roof with plastic or tarp sides, it will probaby last ok.
In a trailer or shipping container that doesn't leak it should last ok.
Under a tarp or plastic or other shoddy cover, probably 70% ok
I don't think the price difference is worth buying that early -- get the cattle and then figure out hay. I usually see the supply decrease around April, but also cattle hay starts clearing out - especially big bales and hayledge that horse people don't like...
My situation would be under cover in a barn protected from rain but with open sides. Alternately I have a sealed shop but cotton and other things in the shop seem to mold over the winter.
Dairy quality hay is difficult to come by in region and especially since we are certifying organic. I may not have an opportunity to come across any come spring so that's why I'm leaning towards getting at least some this year.
It sounds like you're pretty ok to get it in Summer and store it. A big tight stack will stay fresh in the middle even as the outside picks up some moisture -- dry hay will probably act as a dessicant for you!
If you're looking for organic and cheap, I recommend buying some out of the field after baling - you can get a good loock at it, only take the bales you want, and know exactly the kind of farm it came from. If I sell hay out of the field, it's just $100/ton instead of $160/ton out of the barn...
You might also look into a trailer of alfalfa being delivered..
If you can invest the sweat equity and adjust your schedule to the hay time, out of the field is a good way to save $$$. If you have a day job and can't drop everything to load it as it is baled or don't have a big trailer, then you are asking for trouble.
I often end up buying organic alfalfa pellets, they are cheaper and easier to deal with most of the year. They also work well for weaning animals off grain, as it looks and sounds like grain in the stanchion trough.
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