Take measures to ensure hay quality going forward

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By Steve Moore

This past winter was a tough one. We went into the winter thinking we had plenty of hay, but before it was over several producers ran out or were running close.

In addition, the long cold periods told us through our poor cattle performance that our hay quality was not as good as we wanted or needed. True, we seem to get by pretty well with one of our mild winters, but how are we going to stay on top of things if we continue to have rough winters.

Looking forward, what factors can we control in making higher quality hay?

The biggest one is always ‘stage of maturity when harvested’. All forage plants will decline in quality with age.

Our challenge is to harvest to optimize a yield-quality-persistance compromise, and do it in very unpredictable spring weather. The best compromise occurs when plants are changing from vegetative (leafy) to reproductive (flowering). That is happening in many fields as you read this.

Harvesting at boot to early head for grasses and from bud to early bloom for legumes is the way to go for better wintertime performance and calving season next year.


We are still finding more plant material which has been injured by Winter Drying and Winter Injury. Boxwoods, Arbovitae, and Holly around the house have shown some dryed leaves and branches, and hopefully will grow out of this.

Give them a little time to recover, paying attention to small buds which may form and give the branches a second life.

Once you find out if some regeneration has occurred or not, then you can make the decisions to replace or allow to regrow.


Just a reminder to join us at the Henry County Extension Office on Thursday, May 8, from 4 to 6 pm, for our open house celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Extension Service.

Lots of folks will be on hand to share memories.