With the hay making season fast approaching now is a good time to look back and see how the 16/17 hay season compared with the 15/16 season. The 16/17 season brought with it many challenges, especially for southern hay making regions. There was a high amount of plant growth throughout the winter period which led to enormous crops that were four to six feet in height and had quite thick stems, particularly in the cereal crops. Wet weather meant that many growers were not able to get on the paddock to cut hay at the ideal cutting time. It also meant that in some cases, hay was rained on after it had been cut and prior to baling leading to longer curing time. So how did this affect the nutritional quality of the hay? Below you will see a nutritional comparison between season 15/16 and season 16/17 for Lucerne, Oaten and Vetch hay.
When we take a closer look at the Lucerne hay results in Figure 1 we can see the average Metabolisable Energy (ME) and Crude Protein (CP) levels are lower this past season when compared with the 15/16 season results. You will also notice that the Water Soluble Carbohydrates (WSC) or sugar content is lower in the 16/17 season. Given that there is a decline in these three key nutritional parameters it comes as no surprise that the fibre content in the form of Neutral Detergent Fibre (NDF) and Acid Detergent Fibre (ADF) is elevated in the 16/17 season hay results. We can see this same relationship occurring when we look at the Oaten hay results in Figure 2 and the Vetch hay results in Figure 3.
While there is a difference in the Lucerne hay results, you will notice that it is not significant. This is mainly due to the fact that unlike other hay crops you can get four or five cuts for Lucerne which equals out the nutritional results.
There is a significant decline in the nutritional value for cereal crops from the 16/17 season and this mainly comes back to the fact that we had such big crops that was coupled with wet weather. There were very few crops that were cut at the ideal time, which is between flowering and the watery ripe stage, and were instead cut well into the milky dough stage. As can be seen in Figure 4, as the plant continues to grow it will decrease in sugar content and protein and increase in fibre.
Vetch hay crops had a lot of biomass this past season and as such they took a long to time dry out from cutting to baling. Some crops experience rotting on the bottom of the windrows or from crops that had already fallen over which contributed to a decline in protein and sugar content.
As a plant continues to grow, it naturally declines in protein and sugar content and produces more fibre as can be seen in Figure 4. So hay that is cut earlier will naturally have a better feed test analysis results and will be a more ideal stock feed. The increase in rain events over the growing period may also have contributed to a washout of nutrients and hence poorer feed test analysis results in the 16/17 season.
So what can we do now to improve the quality of this season’s hay feed test?
Seeing as though we have had a dry and frosty June the forecast for this season is that our crops will be potentially delayed compared to last year. This means that they will be more reliant on spring growth, and hence this may correlate to a reduction in fibre and lignin content as crops will be likely be shorter and less stalky. In hay production an increase to yield from tall stalky plants can have a major impact on quality. If you have any questions about harvesting your hay this coming season give the Feed Central team a ring today!
NIR FEED TEST
- RESULTS INCLUDE
- • Minerals
- • Crude Protein
- • Digestible Energy
- • Metabolisable Energy
- • Neutral Detergent Fibre (NDF)
- • Acid Detergent Fibre (ADF)
- • Water Soluble Carbohydrates (WSC)
- • Simple Sugars (ESC)
- • Crude Fat
- • Starch
- • Ash
- PACKAGE INCLUDES
- Feed Test Quality Certificate