Dale Watson
Commercial Agriculture Beef and Livestock Specialist
University of Missouri Extension




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Please send your comments and sund suggestions to Dale Watson, Commercial Agriculture Beef and Livestock Specialist, University of Missouri Extension, 111 N. Mason, Carrollton, MO 64633, call 660-542-1792, or send messages by e-mail to: watsond@missouri.edu.
For the Week of
March 18, 1999

Balage A Harvesting Alternative

Even though this is still March the hay season is only 60 days away for many beef producers. This may sound sort of far-fetched considering the amount of snowfall much of the Midwest received this past week. It is not too early to be thinking about the quality of hay needed, harvesting procedures and storage methods available for the 1999/00 winter that would best fit your operation. Keep in mind that the weather can have a definite influence on your harvesting method and storage procedure.

One method that works quite satisfactorily for many producers is harvesting and storing forage as balage due to the fact that it is often difficult to dry the forage to the 15% to 18% moisture level for harvesting as hay. Many feel that sealing the large packages with plastic to be expensive. However, with hay that is left in the windrow and rotated numerous times, frequently the quality of the forage or stems left is fit only for ditch filling. The cost of harvesting becomes extremely expensive under these conditions.

Advantages to utilizing the balage technique include: Virtually any forages can be harvested and stored as balage. Alfalfa grown alone or with Brome or Orchard Grass has the greatest potential due to the increased yield. For most forages a 50% to 60 % moisture content is recommended for the balage method. A 3- to 5-ton yield of hay would convert to a 6- to 10-ton yield of balage. Forage quality is often enhanced when harvested as balage due to weather conditions. Leaf loss is greatly minimized or virtually eliminated when legumes are harvested as balage.

The disadvantages to utilizing the balage technique include: The increase in the weight of the bales due to the moisture content requires equipment large enough to handle these packages. Feeding in bunks or rings is recommended to reduce feeding loss. Additional equipment is required for the wrapping and handling process and the plastic must be disposed of.

We have completed numerous harvesting, storage and feeding projects in cooperation with Lester Bailey of Marshall, MO, utilizing the balage method. Several individuals who have harvested hay only for years are considering utilizing or have utilized the balage method. Several have adopted this method for the early cutting because the harvest can continue under inclement weather conditions.

If you need additional information on the moisture content and recommended length of cut for different varieties of forages feel free to contact the University Extension Center, 111 North Mason, Carrollton, MO 64633 or phone (660) 542-1792 and request the article titled "Forage Tips". This article includes plant food requirements, harvesting methods and storage methods for many forage varieties.

University of Missouri ExtensionDale's Country Trails - March 11, 1999
http://outreach.missouri.edu/agconnection/DCT/CT031199.html -- Revised: April 20, 2004