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By Jeremiah Vardiman, UW Extension Educator

The end is in sight for this year’s hay season with the last cutting being baled or the last few irrigations being applied. According to all the “hay for sale” ads in the classifieds, it has been a decent year for producing hay. As pickup and trailer loads of hay are shuttling this year’s bounty, it seems appropriate to talk about hay storage. 

Whether you produce or purchase hay or feed cows or other types of livestock, the purpose of properly stored hay is the same – to minimize storage losses and reduce fire risk. There are two types of storage losses that occur in hay, either dry matter or forage quality. The most important factor to control in hay storage is exposure to moisture, either internal or external, which can be controlled through bale condition, climatic factors and storage techniques. 

The first consideration for storage of hay is bale condition, also known as moisture content of the bale. Since a bale of hay consists of dry matter or plant material and water, it should be no surprise that there is a direct relationship between moisture content and dry matter loss. The more moisture or water in a bale, the greater the loss of dry matter to microbial activity, which can generate significant levels of heat that also lower forage quality, including both crude protein and digestible nutrients. As a general rule of thumb, hay baled at 15 to 20 percent moisture content will have less dry matter loss and maximize the overall nutrient quality of the bale. Any bale of hay that has 25 percent or greater moisture content will see significant dry matter and nutrient quality loss the longer it is stored.

After bale condition, the next thing to consider is the climatic factors, or weathering process, and storage techniques of hay. These two topics are generally well understood through simple observation. Nevertheless research has shown that hay stored on the ground, outside and fully exposed to the elements for a year can lose up to 22 percent dry matter, 14 percent in crude protein and 25 percent in digestible nutrients in the weathered portion of the bale. These losses result in less physical hay and lower quality hay available for feeding, resulting in more expense to the owner to replenish supplies and the nutrient quality through supplemental feeding.

So what can be done to minimize this storage loss? Protect the stored hay from moisture. Does that mean the hay has to be stored in a barn or shed? Barns and sheds are a good option, though not everyone can afford one. The ground and top portion of hay are the most vulnerable to weathering, therefore the most effort should be concentrated on protecting these portions. 

Here are some recommendations. First, store the hay on a surface that does not retain water and is well drained. A gravel base is a good option. Make sure the surrounding land drains water away from the hay and not towards it, and protect the top of the hay with a roof or tarp.

The other reason for proper storage of hay is to reduce fire risk. Hay bales can start on fire from external or internal sources. The internal source, also coined spontaneous combustion, happens in hay that is baled too wet. Hay that has moisture content of 25 percent or greater has a high probability of bursting into flames due to excessive heat generated by the microbial degradation process within the bale. Once the heat exceeds 150 degrees Fahrenheit, the chance of spontaneous combustion increases, especially when the heat is exposed to oxygen. However, this is not a concern for hay of proper moisture levels – between 15 and 20 percent – because even though the hay experiences the same heating process, it does not exceed 125 degrees Fahrenheit and therefore does not ignite into flames. Hay that is suspected of being too wet should be stored outside for approximately three weeks or until the bale has stopped generating excessive heat. Then the hay can be stacked as needed.

It probably goes without saying that hay can be ignited from external sources such as open flames, electrical malfunctions, lighting strikes, etc. Be mindful of where the hay is stored and potential risks associated with that area. Always remember that moisture is the biggest concern for storage losses and potential fire risks to stored hay. Even minimal storage effort, such as a tarp, can lead to ensuring better quality hay over a longer period of time.

By Dallas Mount, UW Extension Livestock Extension Educator

What is the purpose of your ranch?  I ask this question of ranchers frequently and get answers that often include taking care of the land, to produce quality beef, to carry on my family legacy, to support my family and to make a profit.

If your answer to this question includes either of the last two on this list, then do you operate your ranch as a business or as a lifestyle ranch?

I find that many ranchers want the ranch to produce a profit and not be something that has to be supported with off-farm income, yet their actions don’t match up with their goals for the ranch.  Here is what I mean. Does your ranch have regular business meetings where budgets are reviewed and strategic objectives are discussed? Are economic and financial implications considered in decision making? Are economic projections complied at least quarterly and reviewed as the year plays out? Are managers held accountable by owners and are employees given authority relevant to experience and position?

I find that it is the rare operation where these things are in place. Which of the things that I have presented here does a business not need to do? If your ranch is a hobby, then these things are not necessary, but if it is a business then these things must be done. Often in family run operations decisions are made by tradition and accountability for management is non-existent. Economic analysis of strategic decisions may be done on the back of an envelope, if at all, and business meetings often consist of lining out Junior on the daily tasks rather than discussions of strategic objectives with accompanying budgets and well thought out projections. The owners are often serving in management and labor roles and the duties of doing the day-to-day jobs usually trump doing the management and leadership tasks that any real business must do. 

Jolene Brown, a family business consultant said, “Habit, patterns and traditions make for great family history. Vision, creativity and commitment make for a long-lasting business.” 

I think she got it just right on this one. Who in your business is making sure the vision, creativity and commitment are occurring?

Often times we stick to doing the day-to-day tasks of working in our business because that is what we are comfortable doing. No one ever taught us how to do a budget, put together an economic projection or run an effective business meeting.  You have three choices – learn how to do it, hire someone to do it or don’t do it. If you choose not to do it, then is your ranch a business or a lifestyle? The choice is yours.   

My business is teaching ranchers how to do these things. I enjoy it because of the improvement in quality of life and profitability it brings the ranches I get the privilege of working with. We teach these skills as part of the High Plains Ranch Practicum School. There are other great educational programs where you can learn these skills as well, but just like anything else, the only way to get good at applying these tools is by doing it, goofing up and doing it again.

For any business to be sustainable it must be profitable or be subsidized.  I think the former is more fun than the latter.

Dallas Mount can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or 307-332-3667.


Laramie – Choose any standard – total research money, total patents, graduate student advisees, publications or presentations – and Professor KJ Reddy is esteemed.

This year’s Andrew Vanvig Lifetime Distinguished Faculty Achievement Award recipient joined the University of Wyoming as a post-doctoral fellow in the Department of Geology and Geophysics and went about quietly building a national and international reputation.

“The breadth and depth of Dr. Reddy’s research is extraordinary,” notes Professor Scott Miller, head of the Department of Ecosystem Science and Management.  “He has contributed significant research to a range of critical areas including soil shale, acid mine drainage, nitrates in drinking water, coalbed natural gas co-produced water quality and arsenic to name a few. KJ possesses a rare, keen intellect and willingness to embrace new research challenges and provide key insight into topics relevant to both human and environmental health.”

Professor Emeritus Steve Williams first knew Reddy as a finishing Ph.D. student at Colorado State University (CSU). CSU’s Willard Lindsey called Williams to say Reddy was considering a temporary position at UW.

“Willard at that time was one of the really noteworthy environmental chemists in the world,” says Williams. “He strongly supported Dr. Reddy’s application and indicated that, should we hire him, we would never be disappointed.

“Willard Lindsey’s words were understated,” he adds.

Educational influence

Reddy’s educational contributions to the University of Wyoming have been tremendous, notes Miller.

“He has been recognized, rightfully so, as a master teacher, and his classes routinely draw students from across campus,” says Miller. “His ability to effectively deliver complex material in an understandable way sets him apart, and he extends his time outside the classroom to supporting students who need additional work.”

Reddy studies natural resource issues that pose major challenges to maintain sustainable environments for ecosystems. Major research topics include removal of toxic arsenic from groundwater, mineralization of industrial flue gas components and geochemistry and management of produced water generated from energy resource extraction and energy production processes.


Reddy’s interdisciplinary research approaches have attracted more than $25 million in funding as principal and co-principal investigator.

He has advised 28 master’s and seven Ph.D. students. He has served as a graduate student committee member for 44 master’s and 12 Ph.D. students from four different colleges across campus.

Reddy has also employed 10 postdoctoral fellows and six research scientists and advised and trained more than 50 undergraduates in his water quality laboratories.

Prolific publications

Reddy’s research groups published more than 50 refereed journal articles, several invited book chapters, conference proceedings and abstracts. He also edited an invited book on coalbed methane-produced water.

His group has given 114 UW presentations, 112 state and regional presentations and 159 presentations at energy and environmental conferences and workshops. Reddy has given 79 presentations at international energy and environmental conferences and workshops in 19 countries.

“We have never been disappointed, and on the contrary, Dr. KJ Reddy’s work in soil and water chemistry has enhanced all of our teaching, research and outreach endeavors in our department, in the college, and, to a degree, in the university,” says Williams.

Arsenic removal expertise

Reddy’s arsenic removal research has achieved international recognition.

Arsenic exists in nature and often in water at almost imperceptible levels, notes Williams. Arsenic accumulates in plants and animals and manifests its toxicity later in the life of the organism.

Reddy has been able to devise a very innovative way to remove arsenic from, among other sources, drinking water, says Williams.

“His discovery has the promise of making potable waters from around the planet at surprisingly economical levels,” he notes.

Teaching skills praise

Several of his graduate students were recognized and awarded UW outstanding thesis and James B. Warner American Water Works Association awards for research and publication track records.

Williams notes Reddy’s teaching skills are the influence that helped those students to achieve their goals.

“He is a skilled instructor and has that talent of being able to present complex materials and concepts often in an applied manner that resonates with students and colleagues alike,” Williams says.

Reddy has received UW’s highest distinguished teaching honor, the George Duke Humphrey Distinguished Professor Award, in addition to the John P. Ellbogen Distinguished Teaching Award and the Agricultural Experiment Station Outstanding Researcher Award.

“With outstanding accomplishments in all areas of his work – teaching, research, service and extension – Dr. Reddy has demonstrated how to build an exemplary career at UW,” says Miller.

This article is courtesy of UW's College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

A long-time contributor to research and outreach programs at the University of Wyoming has been selected to receive the Outstanding Research Partner Award from the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Anadarko Petroleum Corporation is one of the largest energy companies in Wyoming in terms of lease holdings and production and was the largest oil producer in the state in 2014.

The company is also the largest private landholder, with approximately 4.2 million acres of private mineral holdings and 1.2 million acres of surface holdings formerly associated with the Union Pacific land grant.

“Anadarko contributes greatly to natural resource issues and reclamation science in Wyoming, as evidenced by its being awarded the Wyoming Game and Fish Department’s Landowner of the Year in 2007,” says Jeff Beck, an associate professor in the Department of Ecosystem Science and Management and nominator.

The company has helped fund several research studies through the college, including those by Beck.

The company is also the largest taxpayer in Wyoming – averaging almost $1 million per day in taxes and royalties to state and local governments since 2002. Beck notes the company has invested over $3.2 billion in capital investments in Wyoming since 2002.

The company’s commitment to research and outreach is spread across the UW campus.

It includes a $1.6 million donation to the School of Energy Resources, which was used to create the Anadarko Fellowship for Excellence in Energy Scholarship for graduate students.

Anadarko is one of a consortium of energy companies funding the Mitigation Opportunity Mapping Tool through the Petroleum Association of Wyoming. The tool involves mapping disturbances within two miles of all sage grouse leks in Wyoming. The maps include annual lek count data to assist in monitoring local sage grouse population responses to disturbances and restoration activities.

The company also provided funding for more than $1 million of research for the management of the Fortification Creek elk herd in northeast Wyoming as part of adaptive management with the state and the Bureau of Land Management.

That effort has included funding $129,000 as part of a study conducted by a Ph.D. student advised by Beck.

Since 2008, Beck and colleagues received $630,181 to conduct research on a number of areas, including sage grouse in the Atlantic Rim area, elk at Fortification Creek and pronghorn in the Red Desert and their response to environmental features and energy development structures characterizing their habitats.

In addition, Beck and his colleagues have studied the impacts of ravens on sage grouse populations in the Atlantic Rim and southwest Wyoming, a project conducted in collaboration with Utah State University.

Also, Anadarko funding aided a new study that seeks to evaluate the influence of fall hunter-harvest on range-wide sage grouse population trends.

Beck says these funds have supported one postdoc, two Ph.D. students and two master’s students and led to nine journal articles published and several in various stages of revision or preparation.

Several University of Wyoming programs and departments have been involved with Anadarko’s research efforts.

They include the Department of Ecosystem Science and Management and Wyoming Reclamation and Restoration Center (WRRC) in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, the Wyoming Geographic Information Science Center (WyGISC) and the Wyoming Natural Diversity Database.

Both WRRC and WyGISC are working with Anadarko and the Petroleum Association of Wyoming to develop the Mitigation Opportunity Mapping Tool to provide accessible information about habitat condition and sage grouse use of all leks in Wyoming.

Colleen Faber of Anadarko is participating in the vegetation task force with which the WRRC has been involved. The group is working to bring more consistency to reclamation monitoring methods used in Wyoming. Dennis Ellis, Anadarko’s government relations adviser for Wyoming, serves on the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources Board of Advisors.

This article is courtesy of UW's College of Agriculture and Natural Resources.