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
June 3, 1999

Forage Maturity -- Quality Forage

Observations by many producers have stimulated comments regarding the maturity of cool season grasses this spring. Even though the spring weather of 1999 was cool and wet for many areas, it seems to many producers that forages have reached maturity earlier than expectations.

Several producers have harvested cool season grasses and the spring harvest is in storage. I observed several loads of Orchard Grass harvested as large round bales the last week of May. This forage was harvested in the bloom stage. This observation was very evident when these large bales were being transported. It is hard to beat quality forage when it is harvested in this stage of maturity.

Several months ago I referred to research work that had been completed in Idaho, Utah and North Carolina. This work indicated that the quality of the forage was improved especially from the livestock consumption standpoint, if the hay was cut in the evening compared to hay cut in the morning. This may be true due to the fact that photosynthesis occurs through the reaction with light. Plants store carbohydrates throughout the day and continue to grow at night. One possibility in describing this forage selection by livestock is the fact that the conversion of carbohydrates may be converted to cellulose at night simply due to the continued growth pattern of the plant.

Another very important point to remember is the raking process. This process is often referred to as the "boring job" of the hay harvest but is a very important part of producing quality forage. Reducing leaf loss is a very important management decision when harvesting hay. Leaf loss often runs as high as 21% in hay raked at the 20% moisture level. When leaf loss runs this high you can be assured that quality is sacrificed. Under these conditions protein values are reduced and fiber content is increased. Raking hay above the 33% moisture level has contributed considerable to having quality forage stored for feeding or market next winter. In other words fewer leaves means more stems.

Another consideration is harvesting your forage as balage. Several additional producers are considering this method of harvest. One very important factor to keep in mind is making sure the plastic wrapping is properly completed and the forage packages are sealed. If air is permitted to have access to the forage, nutritional quality will deteriorate and less quality forage will be available next winter. Harvesting balage at or near the 50 to 60% moisture level or 40 to 50% dry matter content, sealed properly in the silo or plastic wrapping will assist with having quality forage for the winter of 1999-00.

University of Missouri ExtensionDale's Country Trails - June 3, 1999
http://outreach.missouri.edu/agconnection/DCT/CT060399.html -- Revised: April 20, 2004