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When does hay get cut and why?

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  • twofatponies
    started a topic When does hay get cut and why?

    When does hay get cut and why?

    This is one of those questions I want to ask the neighbor farmer but he would roll his eyes, so I'll ask here!

    Over a week ago most farmers cut all their hay here. But at least one farm that I ride by has fields of hay which have not been cut, and are now almost as high as my chest.

    Most farmers here cut hay several times in a season - I think sometimes three times.

    Why would someone leave hay in a field longer than everyone else? Does he only want time to cut twice? Does the nutritional content change for the better? (This is hay for dairy cows.)

    I know the early cutting can ruin the nesting of certain birds (there are bobolinks in the uncut fields, for example). But would a farmer change his production schedule just for that?

    Any thoughts?

  • Knothead
    replied
    Very interesting. The farmer down the road from us has yet to cut his hay fields and I've been wondering the very same things. However, in past years, he has cut by this amount of growth so I worry something is wrong with him. He looks pretty old while he sits out with his cart of produce to sell to drivers-by. *sigh* I always wanted to stop and take a picture of the old farmer, with a piece of wheat in his mouth, hat tipped over his eyes, with his little cart of vegetables under the tree on a summer's day. Now I fear I won't have the chance (although, I feel badly not because of missing a pic opportunity, but that something must have happened).

    Leave a comment:


  • TrueColours
    replied
    You have to plant each year for Timothy and Alfalfa...
    I'd be in the poor house if I had to re seed every year! It cost me $5600.00 to do my fields last year and that had better last for a good few years down the road!

    We cut 3 of our smaller fields 2 weeks ago and the hay is fabulous - soft and leafy with a high high protein content. Another field was cut 2 days ago and we are hoping to get the rest cut sometime next week or the week after depending on weather. My fields are about 60-70% alfalfa and I cut it before i goes to bloom. You dont lose as many of the leaves that way and the protein content is higher. Thats fine for me - I dont mind the lower yield for the better quality, but for someone who is cutting commercially they have to get as much yield per acre as thay can as well

    Leave a comment:


  • Trevelyan96
    replied
    Most grass hays best if cut just before seed head appear, or before they open. Making hay is a process. You need several days of sunshine to cure the cut hay properly before baling... and lots of times the first cutting can be a bit stemmy and past its prime because the weather doesn't cooperate. My supplier will give it a little time, but eventually, he'll sacrifice the first cutting to round bales or cow hay if he has to, to get his 2nd cutting started. The 2nd cutting is usually softer and more palatable for horses (and more $$$) but if there's a summer drought, yields will be down (which will make it even more $$$).

    Since I keep my horses at home, I've learned a lot about how the weather can affect my hay supply.

    Leave a comment:


  • prairiewind2
    replied
    Around here, many farmers/ranchers depend on other people to cut and bale their hay. Hay-cutting is a mad scramble - the hay has to be at the right stage and there has to be several days of good weather for it to lay in the field and dry. So fields can remain uncut if a farmer/rancher is low on the list to cut. If the weather doesn't cooperate, those people can lose a cutting - that is, their hay will eventually get cut, but at the wrong time. Either the hay is past its prime cutting stage, or it is cut right before a rain and is ruined.

    There is only one cutting of grass hay around here most years, none some years. Most hay produced here is alfalfa, which is irrigated. No one wastes irrigation water on grass hay, so if you are like me and want some grass hay, your life is not an easy one.

    People try to get three cuttings of alfalfa here, but most years it doesn't work. The third cutting is often snowed or rained out. First cutting is also sometimes ruined by rain. Second cutting can be plagued by blister beetles. All in all, I'm glad I just buy my hay, though even that is adventurous sometimes, and getting more costly by the year. When it all works though, we get the most beautiful alfalfa in the world at a pretty reasonable price. Grass hay is always more expensive, and it's mostly not great.

    Leave a comment:


  • crazy gray horse
    replied
    I grew up on a small 'farm'. We had horses and we had a hay field. However, we relied on a neighbor cow farmer to cut and bale the hay for us....so we always had to wait until he had put up his hay first, then he'd come and do ours, which was usually early - mid July. The farmer would also plow and reseed the field for us every 4 years or so. Not ideal, but it worked.

    Leave a comment:


  • Tamara in TN
    replied
    Originally posted by lolalola View Post
    She's probably busy actually making hay!
    actually yes

    we brought 200 acres in yesterday and my normal bed time is 9ish eastern...but we were unloading hay into the barn on mon nite til 10:30pm....so I miss all kinda stuff here sometimes

    best

    Leave a comment:


  • Tamara in TN
    replied
    Lord we could write a book just on this but here goes


    Over a week ago most farmers cut all their hay here. But at least one farm that I ride by has fields of hay which have not been cut, and are now almost as high as my chest.
    there are old school farmers who care about sheer volume alone...the taller and later the more numbers of bales they will have while quality will suffer

    Most farmers here cut hay several times in a season - I think sometimes three times.

    Why would someone leave hay in a field longer than everyone else? Does he only want time to cut twice? Does the nutritional content change for the better? (This is hay for dairy cows.)
    dairy hay should be cut at about less than knee high....there is a formula that gives <x> amount of nutritional decline for every day's growth over <x> height

    I know the early cutting can ruin the nesting of certain birds (there are bobolinks in the uncut fields, for example). But would a farmer change his production schedule just for that?

    Any thoughts?
    [/QUOTE]

    not if it pays his mortage...now it is possible that the land you see will be CRP land and they are required to wait til <x> to cut said land or the govt won't give them their welfare check on it...so more long unedible hay floods the market later

    best

    Leave a comment:


  • JellyBeanQueen
    replied
    I have roughly 30 acres to grow my hay on (family owned land) and I plant every two years. (granted that there is enough growth) I do not have to reseed every year for alfalfa. I have a mix of 65% Timothy, 10% Alfalfa, 5% Red clover (no alsike) and 20 % other grasses like Blue grass and probably a little Fescu and perhaps a touch of orchard. I try to havest the Hay as soon as the tops of the timothy is just coming out of the shaft. That way it has a higher concentration of nutrition at that point. HOWEVER that is ideal but with wet weather I cannot cut for there will be some spoilage occuring and I cannot aford that. I have one cut done that is pretty close to my ideal ( a little mature but thats ok) and I dont let alfalfa come to flower except after the third cutting I let things grow and I do allow for the feild to seed itself essentialy before going dormant for the winter months.
    I am hoping to cut at prime harvest but the weather has been rather fracious and though its not time to cut yet I still keep check on things like weather and my feilds.

    I know this one guy who only cuts twice a year and lets his grasses go way beyond mature to seed and his hay is very stemmy, course, pale in colour and He does the roll bales. He sells it but I am not sure what it all contains and I dont know who is buying it or feeding to what animals.

    Idealy the best time to harvest grasses like orchard or timothy is just as the heads are emerging from the shafts. Alfalfa is best before maturity just before flowering and red clover is about the same with the top flowers are just emerging. Blue grass, Fescu and etc are also best before they come to head or just as they come to head.
    Its can be hard to cut when the grasses and legumes are at thier prime because of equipment failure, weather (the biggest), Personal issues, no buyers (if I didnt feed my own horses and goats with it I could make some money of my hay) or insect problems, and etc.

    Values of protein at PRIME or IDEAL harvest time and thus the more digestable nutrient content.

    Alfalfa hay - 16 to 18%
    Clover (red)- 14 to 16%
    Timothy - 7 to 10%

    My hay is usualy a little mature so my hays nutrient content and protein content is a little less. Below list what more than likely my hay consist in protein values. This is approximation values. Your legumes will have a higher concentration of protein, calcium, digestable energy and vitamin content esp vit. A. THe ratio between calcium and phosphorus for alfalfa is about 1.40 Ca:.20P, Timothy grass hay about .32Ca:.20P. WIth Cal. and Phos. ratio you always want your Cal. ratio to be higher than your Phos.

    Alfalfa is appx. 13 to 15
    Red Clover is appx. 12 to 13
    Timothy is appx. 8

    Legumes will always have a higher nutrient content than your grass hays at prime harvest.

    I wish my grazing pasture was as good as my hay pasture. It mostly contains timothy, bluegrass, some swatches of fescue and some weeds like dandilion, plantain, and clover of non red variety (I call it lawn clover because I see it mostly in lawns.) and other various grasses. I seed it every other year. I just dont do much weed control in it like I should. (Shame on me) I have two pastures that I rotate off and on. The pasture closer to the barn gets more wear and tear on it because the horses are in that pasture over the winter.


    The more mature the grasses are the more lignin and the less digestable nutrient content.

    Leave a comment:


  • HungarianHippo
    replied
    another hay term

    that I think I've invented: I get "hay envy" every year when I see hay fields in windrows when I'm still trying to pin down my custom baler to come do my field. Good hay guys are in high demand and you have to just try to fit into their schedule and pray for good weather when it comes time for your turn. I swear as I drive by those beautiful, sweet-smelling fields that have just been cut I just about go crazy wanting mine to get cut. Hence, Hay Envy. Dr HH has learned to talk me down from that particular ledge each year.

    Leave a comment:


  • lolalola
    replied
    She's probably busy actually making hay!

    Leave a comment:


  • texang73
    replied
    What?!? A thread on hay and no hair nor hide seen of Tamara in TN yet?

    Either way, informative thread!

    Leave a comment:


  • poltroon
    replied
    In my neighborhood, the equipment is shared among several farms, so obviously they have to take turns.

    Leave a comment:


  • Lambie Boat
    replied
    very informative thread- thank you very much!

    Leave a comment:


  • twofatponies
    replied
    Originally posted by MEP View Post
    Wiki has an interesting article on hay:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hay
    That's all fascinating!

    The farmer cut one field of the five uncut fields today.

    Leave a comment:


  • MEP
    replied
    Wiki has an interesting article on hay:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hay

    Leave a comment:


  • amdfarm
    replied
    Alfalfa is pretty common in my neck of the woods, although there can be some grass mixed in. My friend has his own field and he rotates it every four years w/ a field used for crops (corn/soybeans.) He's got the new field seeded and is waiting for it to mature. He may or may not get any off it this year at all. And yes, the seed is VERY expensive.

    In a good year, they can get four cuttings, but it all depends on the weather. The first cutting is typically pretty tough and is usually round baled, or both depending on the quality and weather.

    This is the time of year when most around this area are making their first cutting, but it's been raining the last couple days, so it'll be pushed back. Might be a three cutting year.

    Leave a comment:


  • goodhors
    replied
    Originally posted by Acertainsmile View Post
    You have to plant each year for Timothy and Alfalfa... but not for Orchard Grass... I'm pretty sure I'm right on with that, hubby has become more of the farmer that I have. I just bring cold drinks out to them when they are working...

    I still call it baling hay...
    Locally, farmers plant the above seeds, Timothy, Orchardgrass or Alfalfa, and expect to cut from those growth stands for at least a couple years. Much longer if they keep them fertilized and cut on schedule. It would be cost prohibitive to be planting new stands each year, seed is REALLY expensive.

    Making hay is the whole process, cutting, raking/windrowing and turning the windrows to dry the other side, so hay is dry enough, then you bale the dried cut stuff, at the end. Local farmers call it making hay, with baling only done on one day of that process. They are specific about calling each step by the proper name. Baling is not actually putting them in the barn.

    Like you would call it jumping, cantering or trotting when asked what you are doing as someone watches you ride. Not using a particular word for an all-purpose meaning.

    Leave a comment:


  • shakeytails
    replied
    Originally posted by Lambie Boat View Post
    why is it called "making" hay? why not "baling" hay?
    Surely you've heard the saying "make hay when the sun shines". My guess is because hay wasn't always baled for storage, since balers weren't invented yet. Sometimes I say "making hay", sometimes I say "baling hay".

    Leave a comment:


  • Seal Harbor
    replied
    Originally posted by Lambie Boat View Post
    2 more stupid questions:

    why is it called "making" hay? why not "baling" hay?

    and what is Bent?
    Because without the making part, curing, it is just cut grass (or legume). Baling is what you do to it once it becomes or is made into hay.

    Bent or Bentgrass is typically found on golf courses, some pastures and lawns.

    Everything you ever wanted to know about bent grass but were afraid to ask.

    http://plantanswers.tamu.edu/turf/pu...ions/bent.html

    Leave a comment:

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