Determine Forage Moisture Content

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Moisture content at harvest is significant factor in forage quality.

Forage maturity/stage of development is often cited as the number one factor that determines forage quality, but for any stored forage, moisture content at harvest is a close second. Moisture content drives what happens to that forage after it is removed from the field, whether quality is maintained or degraded. Improper moisture content can reduce storage life.

The most common method of determining forage moisture is some type of visual appraisal whereby a forage sample is either twisted together or squeezed into a ball and then released.  How quickly that twisted sample unravels, or the ball falls apart determines if the forage is too wet, too dry, or ready for harvest.  While a lot of good quality stored forage has been made using this method, errors sometimes get made and forage quality is compromised, or forage is lost.  For those producers looking for more certainty in determining forage moisture there are some tools available that can help.

Tools available to determine forage moisture include a microwave oven, commercial forage moisture testers, hand-constructed vortex dryers, air fryers, moisture probes, and moisture sensors built into harvest equipment.  Each has some advantages and disadvantages, but each used with the proper knowledge and protocol can help the forage producer more accurately determine forage moisture.  Most of these tools requires that a good representative sample be collected to produce a reliable result.  When sampling windrows be sure to . . .

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