Did you know that according to research conducted by UGA, you can lose up to sixty percent of your hay by storing it uncovered outside? While choosing a site for your hay barns can be a challenge, these four main components can assist in making your decisions.
The first component is drainage. One of the biggest quality killers in hay is moisture and water. Choosing a location in a hole or lower area can result in damage to your barn, hay loss, and expensive drainage work. Build your barn with a flooring system above ground level, ideally six to eight inches. The ground around the barn should also have at least a two percent slope away from the walls of your structure. If runoff proves to be a problem following the construction of your barn, adding gutters or ditches may help remove water from the area. In addition to the drainage from the barn, you should have a well-drained area for loading and unloading in order to protect your vehicles and equipment from significant mud damage and ruts.
The next component of siting your hay barn should be accessibility. Conveniently placing your barn to road access along with adequate space to load and unload hay is important. Planning to have an area of at least 75 ft. x 125 ft. for vehicle maneuvering will allow sufficient space for unloading hay. If your hay barn is on the same farm as your livestock, a more centralized location would reduce equipment costs and storage needs, however; one centralized location could result in a potential total loss in the event of a fire.
The third component of choosing a site for your barn is expansion as spacing is often a compromise between safety and practicality. Allowing adequate space for future expansion could reduce the chance of fire damage and would allow assistance in preventing fire spread from one barn to the next should the situation arise while also allowing for plenty of space for storage in the future.
A fourth consideration when siting your barn would include air movement. Your barn will need proper ventilation to reduce moisture and to increase air exchange. The ideal orientation for air movement would include the sidewall being perpendicular to the main wind direction in the area. For enclosed barns, eave openings and capped ridge vents are critical for ventilation. Proper airflow will not only reduce fire risk and remove moisture but can also reduce the chance of damage from severe weather events like hurricanes.
While a hay barn can be costly to build, storing hay under a well-planned out barn can result in up to a $4,264 net annual savings according to research conducted by the UGA Extension Agricultural Economics team. In addition to the savings from utilizing a hay barn, you will keep better overall forage quality for your livestock and hay producers.