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Implement Alley Discussion Forum

Managing hay for quality and longevity

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lastcowboy32

07-12-2018 11:43:10




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As we get deeper into first cutting and approach second cut; this topic is on my mind a lot. Two sub-subjects of it this year.

Subject 1: There is an old-time farmer saying...something about, if you don't have your first cut done by July 1st; leave it until September 1st.
I know that this is somewhat of a philosophical vestige of old-time thinking; back to when farmers did one cut per year and weren't really pushing for tender, high quality hay (heck...most herds were seasonal and dry during the winter anyway back then).

But...I've noticed that there's still a little kernel of truth to it. I've seen a few times with my hay and with my brother's hay; where you couldn't get to a field until September. You bale it, and you get these "tiger-stripe" yellow and green bales with a mixture of old growth and re-growth. I had some of this just last year...canary grass. And our cows loved the stuff.

I'm looking at that same field this year. We're looking at baling it next week, more than a month ahead of last year...but I wonder... July 18th Canary Grass hay... vs letting it go until Labor Day... I'm a little on the fence about it. I'm going to walk the field and look at how coarse the hay seems to be, how much undergrowth, etc. This field also was left fallow for many years before last year...so I want to get at it earlier this year to thin out the remaining bits of goldenrod, wild parsnip, etc.

It's definitely fuzzy logic, based on a lot of factors.

Just curious what others would consider in the same situation.

Subject 2:
The field that we just completed was for a neighbor that has horses. We bale on shares. His field was seeded with "orchard mix" a few years back. There is still a strong presence of clover and birdsfoot trefoil in the hay; and I'd like to keep it.

I know that birdsfoot has fallen out of favor with many modern farmers; due to smaller yields than alfalfa...but I like the palatability. We cut this field last year over Labor Day; and the birdsfoot was still palatable. Our cows and our neighbors horses actually liked the hay...not as well as if it was cut in June...but they ate it.

This year, I just finished. The birdsfoot and clover were both in full bloom and hadn't gone to seed yet. Based on throwing a few bales to his horses and my cows... I'm seeing excellent color and palatability.
I'm thinking that I should leave this field alone and let that birdsfoot and clover go to seed this fall...as opposed to taking a second cut.

I won't need the hay (volume-wise)...and I think it will be better for keeping the clover and birdsfoot for the long haul.

Am I thinking on the right track here?

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part time pete

07-15-2018 18:19:50




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 Re: Managing hay for quality and longevity in reply to lastcowboy32, 07-12-2018 11:43:10  
I know what you mean. I'm in central NY and there's one 20 acre field that I alaways seem to get to late. With the second growth, I actually get some decent stuff off it
Any field with canary grass in it, I would get off as early as possible though
Pete



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lastcowboy32

07-13-2018 14:47:17




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 Re: Managing hay for quality and longevity in reply to lastcowboy32, 07-12-2018 11:43:10  
Quoting Removed, click Modern View to see

Been through that area. My wife likes Eastern Tennessee the most of the places that we've been through during road trips to the south.



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lastcowboy32

07-13-2018 10:27:44




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 Re: Managing hay for quality and longevity in reply to lastcowboy32, 07-12-2018 11:43:10  
Paul,
Yes. Every female animal from a dairy that had its bid accepted for The Whole Herd Buyout had to be sold for beef.

They had to be branded. Something that we had never done on our farm before.

My mother cried, to see the old cows, the heifers, the female calves...all branded with an X and sold for slaughter.

My family didn't have a big mortgage...due in large part to my one brother's penchant for keeping 40 year old machinery running...

The buyout paid off the mortgage and put an IRA in the bank for my parents.
That's what it did on paper; but after seeing what it actually entailed, animal-wise, I'm not certain that my parents would do the same thing again.

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lastcowboy32

07-13-2018 10:14:04




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 Re: Managing hay for quality and longevity in reply to lastcowboy32, 07-12-2018 11:43:10  
Traditional Farmer, I'm envious of your ability to feed outside year around.
All other conditions considered equal; I think that's the best way to raise cattle.

I just can't quite manage it here in NY for a couple of reasons. The main one is the snowpack, here in the shadow of Lake Ontario. We get enough lake effect snow to overtop the fences some winters. I could wake up some morning and find my cows in the middle of "The Walker Road International Speedway" (my pet name for the road by our farm that people treat like a banked oval).

The other reason is that we operate on a patchwork of land. The dying dairy farms around here are leaving a field here...a field there... They are being bought up by people crawling out from the suburbs. They let me cut the hay for free, or a nominal lease...but the land isn't contiguous...it would be hard to rotationally graze. I would have to truck animals between pastures.

I'd be happy to have some of the dairy farms come back..

Or...maybe we can develop an alternative energy system of burning hay for energy..

40 pounds of hay in a bale...7,000 BTUs per pound

Do the math...

Thanks for your perspective.

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Traditional Farmer

07-13-2018 13:08:17




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 Re: Managing hay for quality and longevity in reply to lastcowboy32, 07-13-2018 10:14:04  
You need to move to Southern VA low taxes,reasonably priced land,some grazing thru the Winter most years,I figure to feed hay 100 days most years. Long hot Summers with plenty of time to make hay.



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lastcowboy32

07-13-2018 10:08:34




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 Re: Managing hay for quality and longevity in reply to lastcowboy32, 07-12-2018 11:43:10  
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Yeah...I think I'm going to take that advice. Good weather is a scarce commodity. I shouldn't waste it, even in a dry year.

Even if I don't take a second cut. The regrowth can feed next year's growth... and cutting now rather than later will knock the weeds back a little more than a later cut would.



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Bret4207

07-13-2018 06:54:00




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 Re: Managing hay for quality and longevity in reply to lastcowboy32, 07-12-2018 11:43:10  
I'm up in the St Lawrence Valley in Thousand Islands area. IMO, cut the canary grass or whatever is there and bale it. You will always, always, ALWAYS be better off having the hay even if it's stalky and coarse than waiting and having the end of summer/fall be soaking wet where you can't bale at all or turn real dry and get no regrowth like 2 years back. It all feeds out better than snowballs and icicles.

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lastcowboy32

07-12-2018 14:32:45




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 Re: Managing hay for quality and longevity in reply to lastcowboy32, 07-12-2018 11:43:10  
I'm actually on board with that. I'm a fan of wild grasses, wild legumes like vetch and such. Heck, I've even baled spotted knapweed, when it's vegetative, it's good stuff.

There are a lot of factors behind my question, though. One of them is the distance of some of these meadows from the barn. They may not get manure every year...maybe never at all.

In these cases, I want to try to conserve what's there, especially if it's birdsfoot and clover; since they can manufacture some nitrogen and they are very palatable.

Same thing with the canary grass. It's a heavy nitrogen feeder. It sometimes doesn't like multiple cuttings.

If I run these fields down and don't manage what's there, I'm not confident that the vegetation that replaces what's there will be nearly as good to bale.

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lastcowboy32

07-12-2018 13:46:46




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 Re: Managing hay for quality and longevity in reply to lastcowboy32, 07-12-2018 11:43:10  
Point taken.

But let's assume that I'm crazy. Let's assume that I actually like my animals to eat what I put in front of them, instead of sweeping it into the gutter and then shoveling it into the manure spreader.

Let's also assume that I have plenty of old hay specifically for bedding.

Let's also assume that I would rather avoid plowing, fitting and re-seeding land every four years.

Under those assumptions, am I thinking along the right lines to maintain the stands of birdsfoot trefoil and clover; and maybe even thicken them?

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Traditional Farmer

07-12-2018 14:26:08




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 Re: Managing hay for quality and longevity in reply to lastcowboy32, 07-12-2018 13:46:46  
I feed my cows out in their pastures,no manure hauling, what they don't eat they lay down on manure on it and makes great fertilizer.I have places I cut hay that the ground hasn't been seeded or ground disturbed in 50 years.Just cut about 20 acres of some like that today mixture of immature Purple Top grass,switch grass,Blue stem and lots of things I can't
ID but it all makes hay was pretty thick and the cows will eat it and keep up. Its cheap for me to make hay so I make plenty of it and give the cows and goats all they'll eat all
Winter.

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Traditional Farmer

07-12-2018 13:30:24




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 Re: Managing hay for quality and longevity in reply to lastcowboy32, 07-12-2018 11:43:10  
You're over thinking the whole thing just cut what is there, cows will learn to eat it.Cows are only picky if you let them be picky.



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lastcowboy32

07-12-2018 12:13:07




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 Re: Managing hay for quality and longevity in reply to lastcowboy32, 07-12-2018 11:43:10  
I've also seen some video from MN this summer. I think you're having it even worse than what I'm describing.
Can't be fun.



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lastcowboy32

07-12-2018 12:10:01




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 Re: Managing hay for quality and longevity in reply to lastcowboy32, 07-12-2018 11:43:10  
I also seem to recall about twenty acres that year that was either put in a winrow and then chopped on the ground with the forage chopper...because it had gotten rained on so badly after it was cut... or just outright brush-hogged and never even cut for hay.

And a few acres that were just plain too wet for either...that sat until 1987.



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lastcowboy32

07-12-2018 12:04:21




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 Re: Managing hay for quality and longevity in reply to lastcowboy32, 07-12-2018 11:43:10  
We've had years like that here. It's very frustrating indeed.
1986...when I was started the fall of my Senior year of high school...rained all damn summer. One of my older brothers had just operationally taken over dad's farm, the milkers were sold off in the "Whole Herd Buyout" (80's farm trivia right there)...and the farm shifted over to beef...I was still living home with mom and dad. We left ruts all summer when we did bale and gave up on some fields until October.

We were doing hay after football practice...not fun...

I can definitely relate and empathize.

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paul

07-13-2018 09:51:04




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 Re: Managing hay for quality and longevity in reply to lastcowboy32, 07-12-2018 12:04:21  
Oh yea the whole herd buyout. We weren't in dairy, but a distant neighbor was trying to get in big, a couple years before they flew in special dairy cows from New York, was going to breed up an extra good dairy herd and sell replacements for others at premium prices. Cows were so special thry flew them in, no long haul over the road.....

Think they all got sold for hamburger in that whole deal. We were at the liquidation auction, along with many many other auctions.

Be different this time I suppose, dairies are too big now for the govt to buy them out. And won't be so many auctions, most big farms are leasing everything.

Paul

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lastcowboy32

07-12-2018 11:48:13




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 Re: Managing hay for quality and longevity in reply to lastcowboy32, 07-12-2018 11:43:10  
The wildcard factor this year is dryness. Upstate NY is having a dry summer, so far. I'm fortunate in that I have rented more than enough ground to feed our animals and even sell a little hay; even with "dry year" yields.

I'm also thinking that it may be a good year to slant toward letting some legumes like clover and birdsfoot go to seed; since they are generally more heat/drought tolerant than grass (what with tap roots and nitrogen-fixing bacteria and stuff), and they will have a better time competing with the grass this summer and going to seed.

Is that some reasonable thinking?

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paul

07-12-2018 11:56:52




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 Re: Managing hay for quality and longevity in reply to lastcowboy32, 07-12-2018 11:48:13  
Well don't have the year we are having in southern mn for hay field longevity. What isn't outright drowned out is very sickly, with yellow and brown from all the stunted apsatirated roots.

Then we drive on it when we can to get a cutting if at all possible, and track up the field so,etching terrible.

It will take years for some new hay fields to come in and replace the mess we are making of the mid this year.

Paul

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