Here is what you can do to minimise the impact of the weather on your hay
- Be aware of weather forecasts, short term and long term when preparing to cut and bale hay.
- Attempt to cut hay after a cold front has passed to ensure the maximum amount of dry weather in which to cure the crop.
- Ensure hay is properly baled as loosely packed bales are more easily penetrated by rain and wind resulting in reduced quality and yield.
- Have adequate and effective storage. Storage options range from uncovered pads and semi-permanent covers and tarps to permanent structures like hay sheds.
- Growing conditions such as the level of rainfall. Excessive amounts can lead to diseases that decrease production whereas not enough rainfall can stunt the growth of hay.
- Different hays have varying quality and nutritional value and what you plant may depend on your livestock or geographical location. For example, grass hay compared to legumes are generally lower in protein, energy, calcium and vitamins. Often the best hay is a mixture of grass and legumes as some legumes can cause livestock such as horses to slobber.
- Stage of growth of plants can determine the nutrient content of your hay. To achieve maximum nutrient content for your hay, harvest at recommended points – legumes after a few flowers appear, grasses when seed heads begin to appear and grain hays once the grain reaches the soft-dough stage.
- Harvesting conditions can affect hay quality i.e. superfluously moving hay after it is cut can cause leaves to shatter and mix dirt into the hay.