STOCKTON — “Hay harvest management will influence supplementation needs for cattle next hay feeding season,” Patrick Davis, MU Extension regional livestock field specialist, said.

Davis urges cattle and hay producers to harvest and bale hay properly to get the best quality possible because this will lead to less cattle supplementation need next hay feeding season.

As the hay season begins, Davis provides thoughts on proper hay harvesting strategies to produce the best quality hay possible.

“Timing of hay harvest is important to produce quality hay,” Davis said.

Davis urges cattle producers to harvest hay in the late boot stage or earlier.

“If hay harvest is delayed there will be a reduction in nutritive value which may result in more supplementation needed next hay feeding season to meet cattle nutrient needs,” Davis said. “When harvesting hay, some plants can be cut close to the ground while cutting height needs to be higher on others."

Legumes store carbohydrates below the ground so they can be cut closer to the ground with minimal damage to the stand.

However, grasses store energy reserves above ground so cutting them to close to the ground will reduce plant energy reserves leading to stand loss.

Davis recommends 2 inches for minimum harvest height on legumes and 3 to 4 inches minimum harvest height on grass and mixed grass hays.

“Cutting too close to the ground will also increase dirt, dust and ash content in the hay,” Davis said.

For more information on forage cutting height contact a local MU Extension agronomy field specialist.

“High quality hay production improves profit potential for the cattle operation because it reduces supplementation need and cost during the hay feeding season,” Davis said.

For more information on hay production strategies to improve quality at harvest time, contact a local MU Extension agronomy or livestock field specialist.

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