Rainfall and high humidity this summer have made it hard for Indiana farmers to harvest hay, reports Keith Johnson, Purdue University Extension forage specialist.

“Some farmers got their hay mowed, but then they lost yield and quality when it rained,” says Johnson. “Others did not get it cut in timely fashion, so the quality of their hay went down.”

Because high moisture can cause mold in the hay and other bacteria and fungi can form and cause combustion, it’s important to monitor hay after harvest and to store it properly.

Part of proper storage means farmers need to monitor the crop's moisture content, he says. Small rectangular bales should have a moisture content of less than 20%, while large rectangular and round bales should be closer to 18% moisture when baled. Slightly higher moisture levels are acceptable if propionic acid preservative is applied.

Growers also need to be sure the mower-conditioner is properly set for each field harvested.

“Farmers using the forage on the farm might want to consider investing in a single bale wrapper or an in-line tuber,” he says. “An in-line tuber lines large round bales in a row and automatically wraps them with several layers of plastic. Moisture content at wrapping is recommended to be around 50%.”

Producers also should continue to monitor alfalfa for the presence of potato leafhoppers and make forage testing a priority as there is likely to be some lower-quality first-cutting hay this year.

After harvest, Johnson recommends soil be tested for fertility level and pH if it hasn’t been tested for several years. Fertilizer and lime application can then be based on the soil-test information.

For more information, contact Keith Johnson at johnsonk@purdue.edu.