How to Stack Hay Properly

How to Stack Hay Properly

by | Jul 9, 2023 | Blog

For horse owners or farmers operating large scale livestock operations, hay storage is a constant point of concern. This challenge is not merely about storing hay, but about preserving its quality and preventing damage, all while maximizing the use of available space. Here’s a comprehensive guide on stacking hay effectively and efficiently.

Understanding Hay Threats

A successful hay stacking strategy requires a fundamental understanding of the potential threats to hay. One of the most common and harmful threats to hay is mold growth. Molds can ruin the hay’s palatability and quality, and release mycotoxins, harmful by-products of their metabolism that can lead to severe health issues in animals, including colic, neurological disorders, and even death. Therefore, prevention of mold growth is paramount in hay storage.

Moisture, warmth, and limited airflow create conducive environments for mold growth. Therefore, hay must never be stored directly on the ground, where moisture can easily infiltrate. Also, maintaining adequate airflow around bales can help keep hay fresh and prevent mold. Protective measures against weather factors like rain and strong winds are also critical to prevent moisture absorption and nutritional value loss.

The Safe Hay Storage Doctrine

Two significant hazards that come with large amounts of stored hay are the risks of fire and pest infestation. Hay is highly combustible, especially when packed tightly and exposed to dampness. Spontaneous combustion, where the hay stack can randomly burst into flame due to internally generated heat, is a real risk. This necessitates that you keep a fire extinguisher handy, implement a well-planned fire drill, and maintain adequate distance between hay stacks and residences or stables.

Further, hay attracts rodents, which, in turn, draw snakes, posing a threat to people, horses, and other livestock. Barn cats are an excellent organic solution to keeping rats away. However, mouse traps, like the classic mousetrap or a high-voltage electric trap, can supplement these efforts effectively. We recommend products like the Tomcat Rat Snap Trap for easy and effective pest control.

Stacking Your Hay Properly

The key to effective hay storage is the correct stacking strategy. This can protect your hay, maximize space usage, and make access easier. Stacking hay correctly also enhances airflow and decreases the potential for moisture retention. Round bales should be laid on their sides to allow rainwater to run off, and square bales should be stacked in a pattern that promotes stability and air circulation.

Investing in a good hay tarp, like the Grizzly Tarp, can provide an extra layer of protection against weather elements. Pair this with the use of wooden pallets to elevate the hay off the ground, ensuring optimal protection against ground moisture. Secure your hay storage area against unwanted intruders like horses and other animals using specially designed electric fencing like the Zareba Electric fence & energizer.

Maximizing efficiency and space usage in your hay storage strategy requires careful planning and effective utilization of the right tools and techniques. A well-stacked, well-protected hay pile ensures quality sustenance for your livestock and peace of mind for you. Now that we’ve discussed the fundamentals, it’s time to delve into more specific hay stacking strategies.

Related: How to Store Hay Without a Barn

Specific Hay Stacking Strategies

1. Base Layer Formation: The first step in stacking hay is to lay the base layer. This is arguably the most important step because a strong base ensures the stability of the entire stack. Hay bales should be laid flat, end to end, covering the entire surface of the area you’ve designated for the stack. You should ensure the bales fit snugly against each other, minimizing gaps to provide a stable foundation.

2. Layering Strategy: After laying the base layer, the next layers should be stacked perpendicular or at a right angle to the layer beneath. This means if the bales in the first layer are placed lengthwise, the bales in the second layer should be placed crosswise. This alternating pattern should continue for all subsequent layers. This strategy helps to interlock the bales and distributes the weight evenly across the stack, enhancing its stability.

3. Stack Height: The height of the stack should be determined considering the safety and accessibility. While it may seem efficient to stack bales as high as possible, reaching high stacks safely can be challenging and could also risk the stack’s stability. A practical approach is to stack to a height that can be safely reached with your available equipment.

4. Stack Shape: The shape of the stack is often neglected but can be quite critical. Ideally, your stack should have a pyramid or trapezoidal shape, which means the top of the stack should be narrower than the base. This shape is more stable and less likely to topple than a rectangular or square shape.

5. Handling Odd-Sized Bales: Hay bales often come in various sizes and shapes. In such cases, it’s crucial to assess each bale and decide where it would fit best within the stack. Smaller bales might be better suited for the top layers, while larger, more uniformly shaped bales provide a more stable base.

6. Restacking and Adjustments: Over time, the stack might settle or shift slightly, potentially destabilizing it. Regular checks should be performed to identify any misaligned bales or areas where the stack may be leaning. Any issues should be rectified promptly, either by adjusting the existing bales or restacking the affected part of the stack.

7. Rotating Stock: When adding new bales to an existing stack, it’s important to rotate your stock to ensure that older bales are used first. This prevents hay from becoming too old and losing its nutritional value. New bales should be added to the top or side of the stack, ensuring that older bales remain easily accessible.

These techniques can significantly improve the stability and efficiency of your hay stack. However, it’s essential to adapt these general techniques to your specific circumstances, such as the size and shape of your storage area, the types of bales you’re using, and the equipment you have available.

Storing Hay in Different Seasons

Understanding how to stack hay for different seasons is vital to ensure its longevity. In winter, aim to use the oldest hay first to prevent it from sitting too long and becoming susceptible to degradation. In spring and summer, prioritize hay that has been exposed to the most weather conditions. This systematic rotation ensures that the hay remains fresh and nutritionally dense, even while in storage.

Enhancing Efficiency with Hay Storage Tools

In addition to traditional hay tarps and wooden pallets, several tools can enhance your hay storage efficiency. For instance, hay hooks like the Forged Hay Hook from Fiskars can aid in handling and stacking bales, reducing manual labor and increasing speed. Moreover, a moisture meter like the Agratronix Hay Moisture Tester can provide real-time data about your hay’s moisture levels, aiding in mold prevention.

Regularly inspect your hay stacks for signs of mold, pests, or other damage. Tools like the DEPSTECH Dual Lens Endoscope can help you examine your stacks closely without having to disassemble them.


Effective hay storage and stacking is a continuous process, requiring careful planning, periodic maintenance, and adaptive strategies. Whether you are dealing with square bales or round ones, the principles remain the same: Keep the hay dry, maintain adequate airflow, and prevent pest infestation. The goal is to maximize storage space and efficiency, thereby ensuring the quality of your hay and the health of your animals.

Remember, the right storage tools and strategies can significantly influence the life and quality of your hay, and ultimately, your livestock’s wellbeing. Investing time and resources in proper hay storage is not just a best practice; it’s a crucial aspect of sustainable and successful farming. As a farmer or horse owner, mastering this art is well worth your effort.

About The Author

<a href="" target="_self">Issabella Mitchel</a>

Issabella Mitchel

Isabella is a remarkable equestrian and racehorse trainer, hailing from the horse capital of the world, Kentucky. Growing up in the heart of bluegrass country, she developed a deep affinity for horses from an early age.

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