Many Kentucky hay growers are bringing in lower-than-normal first-cutting yields, reports Ray Smith, University of Kentucky Extension forage specialist.

An unseasonably mild winter and a warm March allowed the hay crop to mature quicker than usual, he says. But many areas in western Kentucky have had very little rain this spring, which could be one explanation for lower yields of grass hay. Yields are also down in eastern areas of the state that have received more rainfall, possibly because growers didn’t apply fertilizer due to the high cost of nitrogen. Another explanation may be that the grasses’ growth patterns were affected by temperature swings this spring.

Alfalfa growers and those with grass-clover mixes are seeing higher yields than those with just grass hay, says Smith.

“Across the state, the mild winter and good early precipitation led to tremendous early growth of clover this year, and alfalfa yields are good despite some alfalfa weevil damage.”

He encourages growers who haven’t made their first cuttings to do so soon. Grass hay will likely produce a quality second cutting if it gets timely rains, and alfalfa will yield well, regardless of rainfall, because of its deep root system.