I've been asked this week why we are bothering to bale our hay, and why not just store it loose? Baling it adds an extra step, it's true.
Loose hay takes up a lot of space. Last year we stored our hay in every dry spot we could find, but we never had enough room, no matter how hard we tried to compact it. Transporting it to the livestock was a chore. I had to measure the hay with a Rubbermaid bin, and carry that bin back and forth from hay storage to feeders innumerable times each day.
When we bought this place we inherited several outbuildings that are in various states of disrepair and demolition. What was dry last year isn't dry this year - we've sprung a few leaky roofs. So we have less space this year that is suitable for hay storage.
Many people cite rodents as the reason they prefer baled hay. Cats can prey upon the rodents if the bales are stacked correctly, with room in between each bale. It would be impossible for my army of felines to catch mice and rats in loose hay.
Our field also has areas of different quality. Parts are weedier than others, but the goats like weedy hay, so it's easier to keep the "goat hay" separate from the "horse hay" when that hay is baled. We don't spray our hayfield with herbicides.
Baling by hand is labor intensive, but so is feeding loose hay. We've weighed the pros and cons, and have decided to spend the labor now rather than later. The weather is better now than it will be in the winter when I need the hay. Hauling bins-full of loose hay in an Oklahoma ice storm isn't my idea of fun.
Right now though, I'm feeding loose hay. There is no sense in taking that extra step of baling at this point, when I can fill up the cart behind my lawn tractor with loose hay from the field where we are baling, bring it up the hill and fill the feeders in the morning. In the evenings, I'm still letting the goats out to browse. This is a time-intensive chore rather than a labor-intensive one: I must play shepherdess since we don't have goat-proof fencing. But while we still have green growth, I intend to let them out daily. I've seen such an improvement in the goats' health and appearance this year; it's worth the time to me.