Making quality hay is all about timing. You will never be able to recover the quality if you get the timing wrong. Feed Central looks at many different aspects of your hay to determine the quality and these include:
- Maturity – The ideal time to cut your hay is between flowering when you can see the white anthers appear, up to the watery ripe stage when you can squeeze the grain and watery green liquid appears. Cutting your hay after this stage risks a decline in quality due to the fact that as the plant continues to grow it will increase in fibre content and decrease in sugar content.
- Colour – The ideal colour for hay is a bright green colour. This is affected by maturity and curing time. The longer the hay is on the ground for after it is cut the more chance that it will be weather damaged or bleached by the sun. Always check the forecast when you are about to cut hay.
- Texture – The ideal texture for hay is soft and not prickly. This parameter again can be affected by maturity when cut and curing time.
- Stems – Aim to have thin stem diameters. Thicker stems will lead to an increase in fibre content which is not desirable. Having smaller row spacing’s can help to keep your stems thinner.
- Moisture – Aim for all your hay bales to have a moisture range of between 10-16%. This will ensure that no fermentation will occur in the bale after baling and that your hay is not too dusty. To make sure that the moisture is correct always use a moisture meter. (Please note that certain markets such as the export hay market, require your hay to have a lower moisture level.)
- Storage – This helps to determine how well your hay is going to age. If your hay is stacked outside without any covers then it will decline in quality allot faster then hay that is stored in a shed and is protected from weather events. If you don’t have a shed for your hay there are a few simple ways to preserve the quality of your hay for longer. Create a storage pad for your hay to be stacked on as this ensures that water will be able to drain away from the stack when it rains. Stack your hay in a block configuration and make sure there are no ‘cliff edges’ that can collect water. Also ensure that your hay is covered with either tarps or hay caps as this will help protect the stack from weather events.
- Weeds – Weeds are undesirable to have is hay. They pose a biosecurity risk and can cause the spread of noxious weeds. Ideally try to control weeds prior to sowing and during the growing period. If you know that a certain part of your paddock has weeds in the crop, then consider stacking these bales separately after baling.
- Contamination – Always prepare your paddock prior to planting. Make sure that there are no contaminants such as wire, star posts, rocks or dead animals in the paddock that may get baled with the hay. Contamination of the bale can also occur when you are storing the hay. Ensure that the surface of the storage has a large amount of residual hay, is covered in a plastic lining or is compacted dirt. This will help ensure that dirt and rocks do not contaminate the bottom bales of your stack.
If you have any questions about how to make quality hay, give Feed Central a ring today! Call 1300 669 429!
If you want to know the quality of your last season product that’s sitting in the shed, stacked in the paddock or under those tarps then we highly recommend you get a Feed Test done for just $77!
We can also help you with all your farm tool needs that help to making quality hay. We have hay tarps, hay testing probes and moisture meter for sale.