Maintaining good hay quality from summer annual grasses can be challenging for some producers, but there are a few tips and tricks that can make it easier. This article outlines some of these tips, as offered by experts at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Institute of Agriculture and Natural Resources.
It’s worth noting that almost all problems begin at the stems. They are low in protein and energy, slow to dry, and can potentially contain toxic nitrates. The experts state that cutting early when the plants are only waist-high can be beneficial. With smaller stems and fewer of them, they are more likely to dry quicker.
Regardless of when producers harvest, the experts recommend cutting high, leaving between eight and 10 inches of stubble. Tall stubble can encourage quicker regrowth and allow air to dry underneath.
As the warmer days of summer inch closer, forage plants need time to adjust to the temperature. Alfalfa plants, in particular, tend to grow more slowly during this period. In addition, moisture stress becomes more common. Production of high-quality hay can become nearly impossible when the weather is warm.
The experts claim that adjusting the time of day that hay is cut can potentially help. For instance, cutting in the late afternoon tends to produce higher quality hay than trimming in the morning. However, the experts note that there is still no guarantee that the hay will be high quality during this time of the year, even when variables are taken into account.
For more information about achieving the best possible hay and alfalfa quality, visit the UNL Cropwatch site for additional insight.