Topic number three, “Hay Day” Management was presented by Tim Schnakenberg, Regional Agronomy Specialist in Galena, Mo. Schnakenberg began by emphasizing that quality at the time of harvest was of utmost importance.
He presented average statistics of typical forage harvesting losses: field curing – 26 percent; harvesting – 14 percent; storage – 35 percent; and feeding – 30 percent. This leaves only 30 percent of available harvest. Schnakenberg proposed that optimum management should be: field curing – 12 percent; harvesting – 8 percent; storage – 5 percent; and feeding – 8 percent, leaving 70 percent of available harvest.
Schnakenberg stated that moisture content affects harvest and storage losses as well. Mechanical handling, leaching and respiration losses are also responsible. Mowing and conditioning losses can vary depending on the type of mower used. (See table)
Schnakenberg stressed that raking and tedding losses increase significantly as drying of the hay occurs. Not only does dry matter loss occur but leaves are lost as well. The key is rake and tedder early in the process; typically the morning after cutting is the best time, when moisture content is around 65 percent. This can reduce drying time 20 to 30 percent. It works best for grasses, not for broadleaves or legumes.
Testing bales is important to understand your moisture and heat content. Using a compost thermometer can give you an idea of the internal temperature of the bales. Taking core samples of several bales is ideal. Schnakenberg suggested that maximum moisture content at baling for small square bales should be no higher than 18 percent moisture, with large round and large square bales being no more than 14 percent moisture. Baling with moisture content of greater than 18 to 20 percent can result in spontaneous combustion.
Minimizing your drying time is the key for productive hay management.
Schnakenberg recommended using wide swaths to maximize solar drying capacity. This can reduce your drying time by 50 percent. This gives hay a more even color. Mechanically conditioned hay can help stems and leaves to dry at nearly the same rate. It breaks the cuticle or waxy layer and can reduce the drying time by 30 to 50 percent.
Schnakenberg noted leaching could remove 40 percent of nutrients in the hay in a single event.
In addition producers should attempt to minimize their ash content when harvesting their forages. There is internal and external ash. External is dirt and dust. Normal internal is 8 percent on legumes and 6 percent on grasses. Typical amounts that are found are 9-18 percent but 18 percent ash means one pound of “dirt” is fed out of each 5 pounds of hay or silage fed.
Schnakenberg shared other practical ways that producers can speed up their haymaking such as use the weather forecast to minimize exposure to rain; Use a preservative; or make silage or balage instead of hay.


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