The Washington Times-Herald


June 10, 2014

Weather plays havoc with hay harvest


The struggle with making dry hay in weather like we have had this spring, certainly makes you think a little more about making balage instead. This baled grass silage, requires a higher moisture range of 40 to 60 percent instead of the ideal dry hay percentage of 15 percent, which fits our wet spring weather patterns much better. Balage also works well with the harvesting of small grain crops for forage which are often very hard to dry sufficiently. High moisture is required, ideally about 50-55 percent. Balage though has to be wrapped and wrapped well. You want it to ferment, which adds some lactic acid that prevents microbial activity which would make it start to rot. Wet hay, that is supposed to be dry hay, quickly heats up and soon starts growing molds, some of which can be very toxic. Spoiled hay is such a waste; poor to feed, high in waste, and nutrients moved off site with no benefit. For quality feed, it has to be either “dry” hay or balage, there is no in between! Balage may require some adjustments to your large baler, possibly handling equipment, and requires a wrapper. More moisture equals much more weight!

I’m starting to talk about hay and balage way too much here. After all, this is “grazing” bites. What do we do to try and keep forage under control and maintain quality when it is growing like crazy? The first approach should be rotating the livestock a little faster trying to take off the top 1/3 of the plant which will slow down the maturing growth some; we are past this stage (needs to be done pre-boot). As the forage continues to try and set seed, you can slow the rotation and let them consume more of the plant, choosing the best, leaving the rest and taking about half of the growth before moving. There will be more seed heads in milk or dough stage and you will usually notice more seed head consumption during this timeframe.

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