Understand how hay dries to improve forage quality

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If you understand and use the biology and physics of how hay dries in the field, you stand a much better chance of harvesting higher quality forages that haven’t been rained on, says Dan Undersander, University of Wisconsin extension agronomist.

“As mowing and conditioning equipment has evolved, some of the basic drying principles of forages have slipped by the wayside and we need to review them,” he asserts.

His recent “Focus on Forage” fact sheet offers an excellent lesson on how forages dry in the field. Check it out here.

Furthermore, he offers several suggestions to help improve your in-field drying management: 

  1. Put cut forage into a wide swath at cutting that covers at least 70 percent of the cut area.
  2. For haylage, if drying conditions are good, rake multiple swaths into a windrow just before chopping (usually five to seven hours later).
  3. For hay, if drying conditions are good, merge/rake multiple swaths into a windrow the next morning after mowing (when forage is 40 to 60 percent moisture) to avoid leaf loss.

 Source: University of Wisconsin



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