From Across the Field – 11/7/2019

High Moisture Harvest

How it is November already, where did fall go? As things progress with harvest around the county, the intermittent rain sure hasn’t helped with the already slow crop dry down. With regards to corn specifically, we can estimate how quickly corn will dry in the field. Based on the forecast, if your corn is at 30% moisture now, in 10 days it will be about 25% moisture and by the end of the month it may reach 21%. If our current moisture is 25%, in 10 days it will be about 22% moisture and by the end of the month it may reach 20%. When looking at these numbers, it seems like corn is field drying well.

However, if we look at the forecast for corn at 20% now, the calculator predicts a moisture loss of less than half a point over the next 10 days and less than a point by the end of the month. Keep in mind, these are median predictions and if the weather model changes, we could see more-or-less field dry down.

As 2018 was a lousy year for making dry hay across the state, 2019 wasn’t much better or perhaps worse yet. For those who have to purchase hay this winter there are a few things to consider in terms of hay quality and value. There are some visual and sensory characteristics we can look at, as a gross indication of forage quality. The presence of seed heads (grass forages), flowers or seed pods (legumes), indicate more mature forages. Good-quality legume forages will have a high proportion of leaves, and stems will be less obvious and fine. While we tend to favor bright green forages from a visual perspective, color is not a good indicator of nutrient content, but bright green color does suggest minimal oxidation.

Smell of the forage and moisture content are also valuable indicators in determining hay quality. Good quality hay will have a fresh mowed grass odor; no musty or moldy odors. Dry hay made and stored at less than 15 percent moisture should be at minimal risk for molding.

Visual appraisal of the hay has some limitations, the only sure fire way to determine quality is to look at a forage analysis of the cutting. When looking at a forage sample analysis, perhaps the most valuable figure is the percentage of Total Digestible Nutrients (TDN). The higher the TDN value, the higher the digestibility of the forage, and increased digestibility is directly related to nutrient availability.

Other values that you may find on a forage analysis include Acid Detergent Fiber (ADF), Neutral Detergent Fiber (NDF), Crude Protein, and Relative Feed Value (RFV).  When interpreting the forage analysis goals for ADF, NDF, and Crude Protein vary between grass and alfalfa hay, but in general as fiber values increase, forage maturity tends to increase resulting in reduced digestibility for the livestock. A old rule of thumb for quality alfalfa or legume hay is a 40-30-20 analysis for NDF, ADF, and Crude Protein respectively. I’ll wrap up this week with a quote from Lou Holtz: “Show me someone who has done something worthwhile, and I’ll show you someone who has overcome adversity.” Have a great week.

Upcoming Events


November 18 – Farm Bill Training, Napoleon

November 25 – Farm Bill Training, Hamler


Garth Ruff,

Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension Educator

OSU Henry County Extension

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