Hay making

Introduction:

Hay is grass, legumes or other plant sources that have been cut, dried, and preserve fodder in such a way that their nutrient is preserved with a minimum loss, and available to animal as a feed at the time of scarcity period.

The preservation of hay is done by drying and reduces the moisture content from 85-88% to less than 15%.

Crops suitable for hay making

  • Thin stemmed crops are suitable for hay making, because it’s thin stem helps them to dry faster. While thick stem plants are mostly suitable for silage.
  • Leguminous crop are also best for hay making because of their nutritive value, and it is difficult to make silage of them.

Common plants use for Hay making include:

Berseem, Lucerne/Alfalfa, Oat,  Rhode grass, and Sudan grass.

Pre-programs before hay making:

i). Check weather:

Check weather of at-least a week before start hay making(for any unexpected rain or storm). If you want to sun dry it. It takes about 2-3 days in summer with hot weather, and 5-7 days in winter.

ii). Maturity of crop:

Cutting at flowering stage. 

If we cut before flowering stage. The fiber content will be less and high nutritional value. But it leads to the less dry matter yield.

If we cut the crop after flowering stage. the total Dry matter yield will be high, but its nutritional value will be degraded.

So, the best time to cut leguminous crop like lucerne OR berseem for hay is at 10% flowering stage. Where nutritional value and dry matter yield will be maximum.

Steps involved in hay making:

  1. Cutting
  2. Drying
  3. Bailing
  4. Packing
  5. Storage

i). Cutting:

Cut at right stage, also cut the crop at morning time when dew drops are dried out it is the best time for cut fodder for hay making.

ii). Drying:

It take about 2-3days in summer while 5-7 days in winter a with full sunny day to make hay.After, cutting the crops it is raked on the field with a 10-15 cm thickness (for complete dryness and prevent mold growth at the bottom of the bail).

At lest, rotate it 2-3 times a day for the good drying and do it at dawn or dusk to prevent leaf shedding.

Keep in mind, that leaves contain more nutritive value as compared to the stem. So, shedding of leaves should be minimal to prevent loss of nutrients.

iii). Bailing:

Next step is to bail the hay and pack them.

Hay making

iv). Storage:

Some Hay Storage methods are:

  • Stored on ground as an Hay Stacks.
  • The chopped hay: The hay is used after chopping. But it’s not economical as the major nutrient from leaves is lost due to wind or shattering of leaves.
  • The bailed hay: The bailed hay is the compact cubical bundles of hay, which helps to reduce the storage space and can be store in open environment.
  • Wafers: For wafers preparation, the hay is chopped at 3-5cm and compress it in wafers machine.
  • Pallets: Its the compressed product of hay after grinding. It is a cylindrical compact mass. It increases palatability and digestibility and same time reducing the storage space.
Hay making

Characteristics of Good hay

Characteristics of good hay is given below:

  • Maturity: High quality hay contain high proportion of leaves and few portion of stem.
  • Condition: Hay can be dirty slightly but should be free from molds.
  • Moisture: Moisture content should be less than 15%.
  • Colour and odour: Good quality Hay must be Light green in colour with sweet odour.
  • Foreign material: Hay should be free from any foreign material include trash, sticks, weeds, tree leaves. Also look out for poisonous plant species in the bales.

Pros and Cons of Hay:

Pros Cons
Helps to preserve fodder fora long time
Combustible due to less moisture
Vitamin D rich
Loss of Vitamin A
Help in rumen filler and
More labour is required to timely operate.
Available in scarcity period
More storage space is required as compared to Silage.
Good quality legume hay can replace some amount of concentrates and reduce the cost of production
Drying hay too fast can lead to the shattering of leaves.
Reduces the harmful effect of fertilizer on animals.

FAQ's

How is hay making different from silage?

Hay making involves drying forage before storage, while silage is fermented forage stored with higher moisture content.

Can hay making be done without specialized equipment?

While possible, specialized equipment significantly improves efficiency and overall hay quality.

What is the optimal moisture level for hay?

Aim for a moisture content of 15-20% to prevent mold and nutrient loss.

Are there alternative forage options to consider?

Yes, options like silage or green chop may be suitable alternatives based on your livestock’s needs.

How to store hay to maintain nutritional value?

Proper storage techniques, including keeping bales off the ground and protecting from moisture, can extend hay longevity.

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