Garbage In, Garbage Out: Improving Hay Quality

You have probably heard the expression “garbage in garbage out”.  This adage is not only true for hay and silage, but also completely appropriate.   Baling or ensiling poor quality forage will NOT improve its nutritional value.  How we manage hayfields this spring can have a major impact on both yield and nutritive value.  Fertilization and timely cutting are even more critical when we need to refill hay barns after a long winter.  The following tips will help you to optimize hay production this spring.

  • Fertilize and lime according to soil test
  • Apply nitrogen early to promote rapid spring growth
  • Harvest at the boot stage
  • Mow early in the day and use a mower-conditioner
  • Lay down wide swaths
  • Rake or ted at 40-50% moisture content
  • Bale at 18-20% moisture
  • Store under cover and off the ground
  • Do not cut hay fields too close (leave 3-4”)
  • Apply nitrogen following the first cutting
  • Allow hayfields to go into summer with some regrowth
  • Apply nitrogen in late summer
  • Allow stands to replenish carbohydrates in the fall.

Read the full story in the May issue of Cow Country News. Past issues of CCN are available here. Join the KY Cattlemen’s Association to receive the paper issue each month, here.IMG_7282