It’s more important than ever to get hay dry and packaged well with speed, says Clif Little, an Ohio State University Extension educator.
"Cutting and drying hay quickly is always important,” he says. But this year’s late start due to weather challenges, plus high feed prices, means producers should do all they can to produce quality hay with little or no rain damage.
"We're fighting rain as well as other work we've got to do around the farm. But we still have to get hay up quickly … so the following steps may allow producers to get it up a day or two earlier," Little advises.
• Make sure hay-mowing equipment rollers are adjusted properly.
• Cut hay in the morning after the dew is off to help speed drying time and reduce carbohydrate losses due to respiration. Respiration continues until the plant dries to a moisture content of about 40%.
• Lay high-yielding forages in a wide swath to give them better access to sun and wind.
• Use a tedder to reduce drying time by spreading the hay. Tedding will increase costs in terms of time and fuel, but that increase will be offset by a reduction in drying time.
• Ted hay shortly after cutting and when it contains no less than 50% moisture to reduce leaf shatter and forage loss.
• Rake hay at an optimal moisture content of 30-40%. Raking hay at an improper moisture content can contribute to loss of plant leaf material. Rake before the hay is ready to bale or very dry, which can cause major leaf shatter and reduce the overall nutrient content of the forage.
• Bale hay at the proper moisture content based on the size and shape of bales to reduce harvest and storage loss. For most small rectangular and large round bales, bale when the forage’s moisture content is at 18%. For high-density, large rectangular bales, bale at 12-14% moisture for proper storage.
• If storing hay outside, choose a dry location, preferably on a solid surface, such as rock, and make sure it is in a high spot with good drainage and open to wind.