Many hay producers are mowing and raking hay in the first days of summer. However, experts from the University of Missouri Extension explain that they should have baled this hay in May, rather than now, for quality purposes.
First-cutting hay would have normally been baled and stored weeks ago. However, frequent rains and less sunshine, as well as cool temperatures, made haying difficult this spring.
Recent hay tests have shown that the most recent samples only contain 8 to 9 percent of crude protein and 50 percent total digestible nutrients. Roberts went on to say that while this may support a dry cow, it will not be sufficient for producing cows or calves.
This winter, some hay may also become toxic due to the fact that many seed heads are infected with ergots. Ergots make fungal replacements for individual seeds in grass seed heads. The fungus displaces kernels in seed heads.
Missouri producers, in particular, will likely be faced with ergot problems. Ergots produce alkaloids, which make fescue toxic; this is the most common grass in the state.
Hay that is baled while wet has also posed problems, according to Roberts. Damp hay that is wrapped in plastic turns into silage, and ensiling worsens the ergot problem – in this case, toxins are ultimately preserved.
The MU Extension agronomists and livestock specialists note that hay production will now depend on the fall regrowth of cool-season grasses. More information on the state of hay production can be found on the University of Missouri Extension website.