With lots of hay moving around the country this year, Rocky Lemus, forage specialist at Mississippi State University Extension, reminds livestock producers to be on the lookout for potential weed problems.

“The hay coming from elsewhere may contain weed seeds from new types of weeds, and the seeds may survive the digestive tract of the animals,” he says. “Livestock producers should closely scout their fields or feeding areas next spring for possible weeds that are not commonly found in their areas or in their pastures.”

Daren Redfearn, Lemus’ counterpart at Oklahoma State University, advises producers to be wary of weeds as well as trash in hay imported from other areas.

“The current hay shortage has resulted in hay being harvested from some non-traditional areas, such as highway right-of-ways and old go-back fields,” Redfearn says. “It is important for hay buyers to be aware of a couple of potential issues regarding foreign matter in this type of hay and hay from other sources as well.”

He recommends asking “three simple questions” before buying hay from a new source:

• How clean is the hay? “Asking this question is the first opportunity to determine if there may be any potential problems with foreign matter in the hay.”

• What type of hay is it? “Many times, the answer is prairie hay, bermudagrass hay, alfalfa hay or fescue hay. If the hay is classified as mixed-grass hay, it is important to ask what grasses are in the mix. If there are species in the mix that are not commonly grown in your region, that could signal a potential problem.”

• How was the hay managed? “Specifically, you are trying to find out the level of management inputs, such as fertilization and weed control. Some hay is marketed as ‘fertilized and sprayed’. This would be an indication that the hay was produced with at least a somewhat higher level of management.”