Forage harvest has been delayed by frequent and sometimes heavy rains, and limited to haylage and baleage. Making dry hay has been put on hold. Yields have been increasing with the calandar date, but nutrient quality is suffering with advancing maturity. There is still considerable first-cut acreage to be harvested. Second-cut regrowth looks excellent. With lots of moisture, applying nitrogen to second-cut regrowth of grassy fields will provide extra yield. (Apply Nitrogen To Grass Stands To Increase Yield https://fieldcropnews.com/?p=6830) Fertilizer and liquid manure should be applied immediately after harvest to minimize wheel traffic damage.
With efforts to rebuild forage inventories, it is important to minimize hay harvest and storage losses. Remove hay bales from the field as soon as possible to prevent spoilage and minimize traffic damage of regrowth. Store dry hay under cover and off the ground to prevent spoilage. Proper hay sheds are easier to justify with the currently high hay prices. If making silage, reduce fermentation dry matter losses (shrink) and improve bunklife and forage quality by using a proven haylage inoculant. (Silage Inoculants https://fieldcropnews.com/?p=7159)
Commercial propionic acid hay preservatives can be used to inhibit mould growth and heating while bales “sweat” and cure over time as moisture dissipates from the bales in storage. Use the correct application rate according to the percent moisture of the hay. Because large square bales are more dense, they require more acid than other bale types of similar moisture. Probe-type hand-held electronic moisture testers can be subject to variability and error. They should be calibrated to factors that can influence readings, such as forage species, bale type, acid and bale density. It is essential that hay storages have adequate ventilation to enable moisture to dissipate from bales. Tightly stacking bales should be avoided. Don’t store preservative treated and untreated dry hay in direct contact with each other as the moisture will migrate to the dry hay. (Preventing Mouldy Hay Using Propionate Preservatives https://fieldcropnews.com/?p=3655)
Making “baleage” can be a lot easier than dry hay when we get into rainy weather, by reducing the risk of rain damage in shorter harvest windows. Use enough plastic. Although a minimum of 6 mils of plastic film has typically been recommended, 8 mils or more is preferable, particularly with drier baleage. Make firm, dense, uniform bales. Bale at 40 – 55 % moisture. Lower moistures can also work and make excellent baleage, particularly with large square bales wrapped with adequate plastic, but can be at a greater risk of spoilage if done incorrectly. Wrap round bales within 2 hours of baling on hot days and within 4-12 hours at cooler temperatures. Avoid using hay that was rained on. Avoid incoporating soil when raking to minimize contamination by clostridia bacteria. Do not incorporate soil into the windrow with the rake. Be sure to repair all tears and holes in the plastic. (Baleage Tips https://fieldcropnews.com/?p=3531)