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May 31, 2014

When to harvest hay varies

Pauls Valley — Hay should be harvested when plants start to reach a seed production stage of life but before seeds have begun to develop. This is the time when we get the most nutritious hay and the most dry matter production. 

In the case of ryegrass and fescue we are beyond this point but getting these two grasses baled up between rains can sometimes be quite difficult. 

Bermuda grass, on the other hand, is just now beginning its best growth period and hay harvest is just around the corner. Maximum hay production on Bermuda grass stands is best achieved when the Bermuda is harvested on a four- to five- week interval. 

When Bermuda grass is cut every 30 days, it is kept in a vegetative stage of growth and will produce more tonnage than when harvest schedules are stretched beyond this 30 day period. 

Proper nitrogen fertility is imperative if the full production potential of the Bermuda grass stand is to be taken advantage of.

Stage of maturity is the factor that most affects forage nutritive value.  

As forage species mature, carbohydrate material (comprised primarily of cellulose and hemicelluloses) becomes increasing undegradable due to lignifications. 

Lignification decreases the availability of digestible energy and animal performance is reduced.  

Lower quality forages also have a slower rate of passage through the rumen.  

This slower rate of passage reduces intake, which again, reduces animal performance.  These are the sorts of nutritional problems which should be avoided.  Stages of growth at which forage species should be harvested for maximum nutritive values varies considerably.  

The trade off for increased dry matter production at a substantial loss of nutritive value associated with advancing maturity is not a wise one.

Growth stages for harvest of various common hay crops in Pontotoc County are as follows:  Alfalfa, 15-18”, for first cutting every four to five weeks or when 15” high, often taken and highest quality in bud stage; Clovers, early bloom or bud; Oat, wheat and rye, boot to early head; Soybean, mid to full bloom; Bermuda, cut around the third week of June if only taking one cutting for the year, 15-18” tall if taking multiple cuttings; and Sudan, sorghums, 30-40” tall.

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