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Texas producers grow some of the best quality hay in the south. Producing high-yielding and top-quality hay requires attention to harvest management, soil fertility, pest management, and good storage methods. The University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Research & Extension has some good tips for producing quality hay.
Tips For Producing Quality Hay
1. Forage tests to determine hay quality. This is important for feeding as well as being an important factor for selling hay.
2. Harvest Early! Forage maturity at harvest is # 1-factor affecting quality. Short hay harvest intervals favor good quality.
3. Rake and Bale to minimize leaf loss. Leaves are of higher quality than stems. Retaining leaves during raking and baling helps maintain quality.
4. Fertilize Correctly. Low fertility leads to weeds, a low percentage of forage leaves, poor forage persistence, and stemmy hay.
5. Add Legumes. Legumes are of higher quality at a given stage of growth than grasses. Adding legumes in mixtures with grasses can improve hay quality. Management for legume/grass hay includes all of the above.
6. Cover Hay if Possible. Barns or tarps work well. If no cover is available to stack in rows at least 3 ft. apart in the open, high on a well-drained slope, preferably on poles, crushed rock, or pallets. Storage losses can easily exceed 25% on poorly stored hay. High-quality hay spoils faster than poor quality hay if left uncovered.
Source: University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Research & Extension