Forage Focus: Rapid Hay Curing

US - Cutting excess pasture for hay is one tool to handle the rapid spring growth however, getting hay dry can be difficult, writes Clif Little, Ohio State University Extension in Guernsey County.
calendar icon 7 June 2013
clock icon 2 minute read
Ohio State University

Drying time is impacted by forage species, environmental conditions, cut height, conditioning and swath width. Getting hay up quickly may help in reducing rain damage. Rain causes loss of leaves and the leaching of soluble nutrients from hay.

Although a challenge, good management and a few simple steps can help to reduce drying time allowing you to store some high quality forage.

Rapid wilting and exposure to solar radiation is achieved by utilizing properly tuned equipment. Having forage in proper dry hay status means that we need to remove approximately 1600 pounds of moisture from each ton of fresh cut forage.

Mower/conditioners help to reduce hay drying time. Mower/conditioner roller clearance should be inspected regularly and adjusted to manufacturer specifications in order to avoid under and over conditioning of forages.

The swath width can influence hay drying time as well. High yielding forages should be laid in a wide swath. Tedding is often utilized to reduce drying time by spreading the hay. While tedding increases costs in terms of time and fuel this cost is offset by a reduction in drying time.

Tedding hay shortly after cutting and when it contains no less than 50 per cent moisture will reduce leaf shatter and forage loss.

Cutting hay in the morning after the dew is off can help speed drying time and reduce the loss of carbohydrates due to respiration. Respiration is a natural process and continues until the plant dries to a moisture content of approximately 40 per cent .

Raking hay at the improper moisture content may contribute to loss of plant leaf material. The best moisture content for raking is 30-40 per cent . Raking when the hay is ready to bale (very dry) can cause major leaf shatter and reduce the overall nutrient content of the forage.

Bailing at the proper moisture content based on the size and shape of bales can also reduce harvest and storage loss. For most small rectangular and large round bales, the recommended bailing moisture content is 18 per cent .

For high-density large rectangular bales the range can be 12-14 per cent moisture for proper storage.

Rapid curing of hay is influenced by the timing of our production practices. Follow the few simple steps above in preparation for baling to reduce drying time this spring.

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