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Making Quality Hay

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Date:                 July 7, 2020
Agent:               Damon Pollard

This is Damon Pollard, Field Crops agent with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service – Burke County Center. Today’s topic is Making Quality Hay.

Hay is an important crop in Burke County, whether sold as a cash crop in the field, or stored and fed to livestock.

Hay quality determines its value, both as a commodity or feed source, so when making your hay, consider the fundamentals. Factors that impact quality are species, variety, maturity, pest presence, weather damage, moisture, and soil fertility. Species, and variety have already been chosen by now, and fertility was addressed last fall, as you analyzed the soil tests, and forage analysis reports that you took, right? So, cut your forage crops at the right stage of maturity, depending on species. Harvest to maintain a high leaf to stem ratio. Scout fields and identify pests, whether weed, insect, or disease, and use chemical controls, where needed. Weather damage is a big impact on quality, so work to reduce your risks. Make hay harvest a top priority. Use a mower conditioner and(or) hay tetter to speed curing time. Use a wide swath pattern behind mower to spread cut forage out, and consider drying agents and(or) preservatives to cut curing times. Bale hay at proper moisture content. Square bales can generally be baled at slightly higher moisture without incidence of mold, than large round bales, however, 18-20% moisture is optimal.

By remembering the fundamentals of making quality hay, enhance the quality of your packaged forage and reduce your risk of damage.

This is Damon Pollard, field crops agent with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service – Burke County Center. If you would like more information, contact us at 439-4460.