“Hay harvest management will influence supplementation needs for cattle next hay feeding season,” says Patrick Davis MU Extension Regional Livestock Field specialist. Davis urges cattle and hay producers to harvest and bale hay properly to get the best quality possible because this will lead to less cattle supplementation need next hay feeding season. As the hay season begins, Davis provides thoughts on proper hay harvesting strategies to produce the best quality hay possible.
Davis says, “Timing of hay harvest is important to produce quality hay.” Davis urges cattle producers to harvest hay in the late boot stage or earlier. “If hay harvest is delayed there will be a reduction in nutritive value which may result in more supplementation needed next hay feeding season to meet cattle nutrient needs,” says Davis.
Davis stated that when harvesting hay, some plants can be cut close to the ground while cutting height needs to be higher on others. Legumes store carbohydrates below the ground so they can be cut closer to the ground with minimal damage to the stand. However, grasses store energy reserves above ground so cutting them too close to the ground will reduce plant energy reserves leading to stand loss. Davis recommends two inches for minimum harvest height on legumes and three to four inches minimum harvest height on grass and mixed grass hays.
“Cutting too close to the ground will also increase dirt, dust, and ash content in the hay,” says Davis. For more information on forage cutting height contact your local MU Extension Agronomy Field Specialist.
For information on hay production strategies to improve quality at harvest time, contact your local MU Extension Agronomy or Livestock Field Specialist.