The following points are a few keys to succeeding:

1.) Cut the hay when it is still vegetative — maturity at harvest is the primary determinant of hay quality. Each day of added age decreases quality by adding fiber and decreasing digestibility.

2.) You can’t always avoid the rain — rain on cut hay will lower its nutrient content. The amount of change is related to how much rain and how dry the hay was when rained on.

One of the unknowns is we never know how much rain to expect. However, it is guaranteed that if you wait an additional week to 10 days, nutrient content and digestibility of the hay will decline.

3.) Take advantage of drying conditions — begin cutting the crop early in the day (immediately before or soon after the dew is off) so that you take advantage of all the drying weather. Plant sugars rise later in the day, but I am not sure that is an even trade for a day of drying weather.

4.) Don’t overuse the tedder — a hay tedder can increase the drying rate by inverting and spreading out the hay crop. However, over-teddering or teddering when the forage is too dry can result in leaf loss.

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5.) Check the mowing height — cool season grasses can be sensitive to mowing height. Cutting below 3 inches can negatively impact your stand. Orchardgrass is probably more sensitive than fescue. Although that extra inch of lower stem might contribute to weight and volume it adds very little in regard to nutrients and digestibility.

6.) Don’t bale it too wet — all hay will go through a few days of heating following baling. The amount of moisture will affect how high the temperature goes and how long.

The use of round bales has reduced some of the dangers of burning a barn down. Most of the risk reduction is that most round bales don’t go into a barn.

The heating is really mold using available sugars in the hay.

If the heat is high enough (above115F) or extended, the TDN content will be reduced.

If the temperature is high enough (130-140 protein availability can be reduced. A target would be under 20 percent moisture with 15 percent moisture close to ideal.

Hay production is a costly, time consuming enterprise. It’s important for cattlemen to focus on harvesting as many nutrients as possible, rather than weight or volume.


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