How To Have A Successful First Hay Cutting

Thursday, May 12th, 2016

It is possible to get a good hay crop during your first cutting, even if there are delays in the process. The first thing you should do is evaluate the stand and consider if you need to raise the cutting height. Other important aspects include evaluating moisture content, making sure that the hay is properly cured, and having a nutritional analysis done to plan nutritional needs.

Evaluating the stand and hay cutting height

Bruce Anderson, an extension forage specialist in Nebraska, suggests that you should walk out into your alfalfa field before cutting begins. He recommends looking at the crown (or base) of the plants to see if new, short shoots are starting to grow. The second cutting will come from these new plants. If many of the shoots are taller than your usual cutting height, and are part of the first cutting, then your second cutting will be delayed up to a week. The alfalfa plants will have to start a set of new shoots. This delay can be avoided by setting the first cutting height up by a couple of inches.

Evaluating hay moisture levels for proper curing

Hay can tolerate a maximum of about 20 percent moisture while maintaining its quality. Large round bales of hay can only tolerate a maximum of 18 percent moisture and large bales should be at 16 percent or less. If the moisture levels are greater than these percentages, mold may grow and the quality of the hay can go down. Moisture decreases protein and energy levels through total nonstructural carbohydrates. Livestock may not be as inclined to eat low quality hay and it has the potential to become toxic.

Accurately planning for the nutritional needs of your livestock

If you are baleing hay this year, have a forage analysis done. The results from the forage analysis will help you plan a supplemental feeding program based on the nutritional needs of your livestock.

If you would like to learn more about hay and livestock feed, contact SB Hay & Feed in Amarillo, Texas. Call us at (806) 690-6114 or Contact Us by email for more information. We will be happy to direct you to the right products for your animals or answer any questions you may have. You can also see the hay we have available to buy or you can sell your own!