Northern Ohio wheat damaged by hail last weekend will make high-quality hay or silage if harvested in the boot to early head-emergence stage, say Steve Boyles and Maurice Eastridge, Ohio State University Extension animal nutritionists. The yield will be higher at the early milk stage, they add, but the quality will be lower.

When harvesting small grains for hay in the late-boot stage, crimping or crushing will speed drying, Boyles points out. But conditioning increases kernel shatter losses if done in the milk or dough stage, and probably won’t be beneficial in the dough stage, anyway, because the crop won’t contain excess moisture.

Many wheat varieties have been bred with rough awns, which may cause soreness and irritation to the mouth, lips, gums and lower surface of the tongue in cattle.

“A crop with rough awns should be ensiled rather than baled to minimize this occurrence,” says Boyles. “Harvesting at the late-boot stage rather than the dough stage reduces palatability problems caused by rough awns.”

High nitrates are a potential problem, especially if high rates of nitrogen fertilizer were applied, warns Eastridge. That risk will be reduced if the crop is harvested as silage or baleage, because the nitrate concentration will drop during fermentation. Let it ferment for at least 30 days before feeding.

“Other than nitrates, there should be no other risk of using this crop as feed. Just make sure the crop is dried to the proper dry matter for the respective storage method for silage; otherwise there will be an excessive amount of seepage.”

Farmers thinking of using wheat for livestock feed should also note the labels on any fungicides, insecticides or herbicides applied prior to the hail damage. Eastridge points out that wheat treated with Harmony or Harmony Extra can’t be fed or grazed. Quilt has a 30-day restriction; Warrior, a 21-day restriction.