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
April 13, 2000

Hay Shed Tools

We have numerous tools available today to harvest hay. These range from harvesting hay in the loose form to various types of mechanized harvesting equipment. Other important factors include forage type, harvesting date, and weather condition. Weather conditions will dictate both harvesting method and forage quality. Weather forecasts are good for about 12 hours and may be changed from a clear sunny forecast to a 30% chance of rain in a matter of hours.

Working around weather conditions, which none of us have the ability to control, provides the opportunity to select alternative harvesting techniques. Basically it takes the same amount of time, harvesting equipment, and facilities to harvest good quality forage compared to poor quality forage, which often requires supplementation when we are formulating rations for feeding.

Stage of maturity dictates the quality of the forage. Wheat matures rapidly after it reaches the boot stage. In a matter of a few days the quality of wheat for forage will drop drastically. Compared to wheat the nutritional quality of other forages will diminish slower as the maturity process continues, however there is a reduction in nutritional quality.

Harvesting as balage is one alternative that is frequently overlooked. The moisture content of forage harvested as balage needs to be considerably higher compared to forage harvested as hay. When we are dealing with inclement weather conditions there is a considerable difference in drying forage to 50% moisture or drying forage to 15 to 18% moisture. It is often difficult to complete the latter portion of the drying process.

Another alternative that is available to a limited number of producers is harvesting forage as silage. This process requires additional equipment, however often times custom operators are available to complete this process.

Keep in mind that it is cheaper to graze off the stump compared to utilizing any harvesting equipment. However, we must have some type of forage reserve available to provide nutrients as we complete the seasonal changes. The beef cow combination of mower, digester, fertilizer spreader and fly swatter is hard to beat when we compare this to the cost of other harvesting methods. Biological solutions can be utilized to solve problems if we take time to observe nature and consider alternative harvesting measures.

University of Missouri ExtensionDale's Country Trails - April 13, 2000
http://outreach.missouri.edu/agconnection/DCT/CT041300.html -- Revised: April 20, 2004