The optimal moisture level for baling hay is 13% to 17%. Over one-half of baled hay produced is damaged by not hitting this level at baling. This damage is due to baling too wet or baling too dry. Hay harvested above 18% actual moisture will heat, mold, and loose feed value and palatability. Hay harvested below 14% moisture will be brittle, have leaf shatter, and high dry matter losses. The window for optimum baling is very narrow and hard to hit without the advantage of a preservative. Using a preservative can expand the window of opportunity for baling.
Follow these tips for making high quality baled hay.
High quality hay means avoiding rain damage. Rain-damaged hay is typically lower in soluble sugars and higher in fiber, discolored, moldy, dusty and less palatable to livestock. Hay baled "tough" also presents the risk of heating in storage.
How much does rainfall reduce yield? In Wisconsin, Collins measured dry matter losses of 22% when alfalfa was exposed to 1-inch of rain after 1 day of curing. Similar hay cured without rain damage lost only 6.3% of the initial potential yield. Losses appear to be greatest after partial drying of the forage has occurred. In this same study, alfalfa exposed to 1.6 inches of rain over several days suffered a 44% loss in dry matter.
Reduce time hay lays in the field to improve quality. Fast drying of hay in the field is the goal. The obvious benefit is to get the hay successfully made and under cover before the next rain. Fast drying also minimizes respiration losses, microbial growth in the windrow, and maximizes sugars, green color, and palatability.
Adjust swath width. Leaving the swath as wide as practical takes the maximum advantage of the drying effects of the sun and wind. Narrow swaths take longer to dry. Humidity inside a tight, narrow swath is very high and not conducive to fast drying. Most haybines & discbines have an easy swath width adjustment. Consider setting tractor tires as wide as possible to avoid driving on a wide swath.
Proper conditioning. Proper maintenance of both roll and flail conditioners is important to ensure adequate conditioning, without over-conditioning. Check your Owner’s Manual. Rubber rolls wear with use and eventually under-condition if not adjusted. In a survey done in the machine sheds of some Wisconsin hay producers, half of the conditioners exceeded the maximum roll clearance spacing required for adequate conditioning.
Proper & timely storage. Getting hay stored properly is often a weak link in hay production. Large squares absorb moisture from the ground, so bales should come off the field the same day they were made. Bales should be stored under cover and off the ground. Skids or a layer of old hay can be used.
Ventilation is important while bales lose their moisture to a safe level, so stacked large square should be stored with space between. If you plan to sell hay, bales should be green on all sides, so avoid sun bleaching. Green hay typically sells better than discolored or bleached hay.
Use a proven preservative to improve your hay quality. With many choices available, how do you choose the right preservative for you?
How Crop Cure can improve your baled hay:
- Registered with the EPA as a mold inhibitor.
- 97% less mold spore growth.
- Works on hay as high as 22% moisture.
- Reduces dry matter losses by 8-15% and saves more valuable nutrients.
- Crop Cure II treated hay stays cooler and fresher.
- Crop Cure II is buffered, improving palatability and intake.
- Unlimited self life, is always good.
- Consistent formula that works every time.
- 100% active ingredients, no fillers.
- Available as dry or water soluble .
- Effective under wide range of moisture conditions.
- No special storage required.
Crop Cure® Lets You Bale Earlier
- Bale any type of hay a lot earlier at a higher moisture content, saving those valuable green leaves.
- Bale on that cloudy day when hay isn’t quite field-cured, thereby reducing the risk of rain damage.
- Crop Cure® saves you money by increasing the nutrients due to the retention of more leaves and small stems, thus reducing your need to supplement.
- The higher the moisture when baled, the lower the dry matter losses and that means more available nutrients.
- Livestock will go after Crop Cure® treated hay because it is fresher and more palatable; and they will be getting more feed value in every mouthful.