It won’t be long before the harvest of first crop of hay for the 2007 growing season is underway. But before that hay goes into storage, it should be tested to evaluate its nutrition potential down the road.

“Hay quality from first cutting typically ranges from poor to average,” says Virginia Tech Extension animal scientist John Hall, PhD. “For beef herds, it is important to have a handle on the product you have, so it can either be fed at strategic times (such as when cows are dry during mid-gestation), or with supplementation.”

Both Hall and University of Maryland forage specialist Lester Vough, PhD, recommend laboratory nutrient analysis to evaluate hay quality, particularly in the first cutting. In addition, Vough suggests visually evaluating:

  • Stage of maturity
  • Leafiness
  • Color
  • Odor and condition; and
  • Foreign material

To read more of Vough’s quality tips and view a hay evaluation scorecard, follow this link.