Hay growers have been successful in putting up their crop the last few days, but overall, the hay season in Missouri is running late this year.
When the window to put up hay opens, hay growers should not delay in heading to the fields to start cutting. Ideally, May is better hay month than the month of June. However, researchers say that cutting hay in June is far better than July.
The key is to harvest hay before seeds set—a difficult task this year. The problem with allowing seed heads to emerge is that the grass transfers proteins and sugars from leaves into the seed. The result is lower nutrient content. And all hay growers know that once the grass matures and seed heads fill, it stops growing.
The lack of warm weather and sunshine caused hay to develop slowly this spring. The plants grew tall, but the grass did not thicken, putting out fewer tillers and causing a reduction in undergrowth. University of Missouri Extension forage specialist Rob Kallenbach estimates yields this spring fall 25% to 30% below normal.
Test hay crop
It will be interesting to see what impact unusual weather this spring, including snow in May, had on hay production according Eldon Cole, a livestock specialist with University of Missouri Extension. Cole is located in the southwest region of Missouri. He finds that hay growers in that area have been struggling to get the hay cut and put up. The weather this year will likely impact quality of first cutting hay.
"The best way to analyze the weather factor is to test the hay," Cole says in a news release. County extension specialist can collect the samples, but it must be done no later than July 15. Samples are tested for crude protein, moisture levels, and energy expressed as total digestible nutrients (TDN) or net energy. A qualitative test will be run for nitrates.
"Consider having your hay sampled and tested," he adds. "It can save supplement feed dollars and give you a better idea of what supplemental feed to purchase."
Source: University of Missouri Extension