Barry County dragging through bad hay year

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Daily growth of dry matter over 3 times the average for June

Grass and hay growers saw a much-needed, late growth of forage early this month.

This year has been a bad hay year with a lack of sun and dry soil slowing grass growth earlier this summer.

The cool weather made it difficult for farmers to find dry days for hay baling early in the season, according to Rob Kallenbach, University of Missouri Extension forage agronomist.

He said usually in June, agronomists see daily growth of 30 pounds of dry matter per acre. This year, the June growth hit over 100 pounds per day per acre.

The cool weather has been an issue, as have the light rains that make it difficult to find times to cut hay.

"A big problem becomes finding dry days to cut and bale hay," Kallenbach said. "That raises concern about hay quality."

Another problem with wet weather is the creation of growing conditions for ergot in seed heads. These fungi can remain toxic in bailed hay, which causes health problems when fed the following winter.

Early this summer, plentiful seed heads were a signal that pastures and hayfields were not producing. If seed heads emerge, that signals the end of vegetative growth and the start of reproduction. Cattle won't eat seed heads unless forced to do so, according to specialists at the University of Missouri Extension center.

Kallenbach said by cutting the bad hay early in the summer, quality hay growth can restart.

"It's best to graze the first-cutting fescue and then harvest regrowth for hay," he said. "That makes hay high in protein and total digestive nutrients."

He said removing the fescue seed heads before the emerge, which can bee done by early grazing or mowing, is the key to good grazing and quality hay.

Growers with crop and forage questions can contact a regional extension agronomists at the Barry County MU Extension Center.

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