1. First and Foremost, you need to let your material dry out prior to baling. This means following along behind the combine for stalks or cutting and baling the same day are not ideal. Your plant product needs time and exposure to sun and air to dry out before preparing for storage.
If you bale your material too wet, you are putting wet material into your livestock area and it won't absorb waste. Achieving a dry a barn is almost impossible with these conditions. By starting out with dry material to bale, you are giving yourself a step up in the managing waste. This will decrease the amount of bedding material you need as well as the frequency you need to clean out your pens.
2. The next key is storage technique. The most protection is to store your bales inside. This will ensure your bales maintain the quality throughout the seasons. Most people don't have this option so here some best practice tips. If stacking your bales, the most ideal set up is the 3-2-1. Place three bales in a row with two in the middle staggered and one on top, creating a pyramid. Then cover your pyramid with a secured tarp.
Stacking one bale on end and one bale on top with round side down collects all of the moisture in the bottom bale and is not recommended (even though it makes for great photos!)
Bale wrappers are becoming a much more popular choice. By enclosing your bales, you are keeping the effects of the environment out without the need of a building. You can buy a used unit for about $25,000.
What we see most often is single layer storage. Putting bales round side down right next to each other in rows. They key here is to allow space between your rows. By placing them right next to each other, the snow and rain water will collect between the bales making them wet and more chances for mold growth.
3. So what do you do with those bales that have been sitting around for two seasons, were baled wet, and have a moldy layer around the outside? Top-Spread is the solution. Of course, you don't want to use all of these bales at once for bedding. You want to work them in with fresh bedding a bale or two at a time. And they need to be safe for use around your livestock.
Processing these bales through Top-Spread will be harder on the machine and will take longer to process, but it makes otherwise unusable bales possible. Instead of the outside shell ending up in one pile, it is processed and dispersed in with the bedding. Because it processes through and spreads out, it also shakes off a lot of the mold and dust that has settled in. If you hit a wet wedge in the bale, you simply reverse your apron chain away from the rotors and begin to feed again slowly. You don't have to pitch out any material like a pull behind type.
By baling dry, storing dry, and processing, you are setting yourself up for success in creating a dry environment for your livestock.
Interested in finding more ways to improve your bedding?
Download this FREE ebook "Save Money with Cattle Bedding."
*Very rarely do we use photos that we didn't not take ourselves. This is one of those times to show you the different options. Credit goes to the folks that took these (even the stock photo.)