A Hay Test is Worth Every Penny

Christine Gelley, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Noble County

As hay making season ends and hay feeding season approaches, it is time to remind everyone that feeds hay how important getting a hay test completed is for deciding how to feed your livestock this winter. A hay test will cost you far less than the cost of a single round bale. The results you get back will give you the information you need to decide what type of feed and how much you will need to purchase to keep your animals productive until good pasture is available to graze again.

If you have never done a hay test before, Extension is here to help you. We have tools you can borrow and personnel to help with consultation. Here are the steps of how to take a hay test.

  1. Subsamples can be collected with a Hay Probe and a clean bucket or with your hands and large scissors.
  2. Select 10 random bales from the same field and cutting.
  3. Drill/Reach into the center of the bale, from the wrapped side, not the exposed side, and remove a probeful/handful of hay.
  4. Hold over the bucket and empty/cut 4-6 inch long pieces.
  5. Repeat the above until you have subsampled all 10 bales.
  6. With your hands, gently mix up the pieces in the bucket.
  7. Fill a quart plastic bag with your composite sample.
  8. Press out all the air and seal the bag.
  9. Label the sample bag with your name and sample ID.
  10. Complete the Sample Information Form for the lab you wish to use.
  11. Return the Hay sample(s) along with the Sample Information Form.
  12. Go over the results of your hay test with a professional familiar with how to feed your class of livestock.

When you Continue reading

Make Most of Your Fall Grazing

Dr. Ted Wiseman, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Perry County
(Previously published online in Farm Progress – Ohio Farmer: September 22, 2023)

Take forage samples to determine what nutrient values are in the crop.

Depending on what part of the state or country you live in, this year has been another challenge with pastures and forages. Hay yields are all over the board as far as quantity.

Many in my area were able to get the first cutting off in great time this spring, but the quality has been surprisingly lower than expected. So as many finish up haymaking, now is a good time to take inventory of what you have and take forage samples to determine what nutrient values are in the crop.

If you find yourself with low forages going into fall, some options may include using land Continue reading

Fall Grazing Dos and Don’ts

Amber Friedrichsen, Associate Editor, Hay and Forage Grower
(Previously published in Hay & Forage Grower: September 19, 2023)

Although the first day of fall is fast approaching, many regions of the United States are still experiencing the aftermath from an exceptionally dry start to the summer. Even as milder temperatures bring cool-season forages out of their drought-induced dormancy, producers must continue to be mindful about grazing management.

In a recent article from the University of Minnesota, Craig Shaeffer, extension forage specialist, and a team of extension educators remind producers to avoid overgrazing, reduce stocking rates, give pastures adequate rest, and control weeds this fall. Doing so will protect drought-stressed forage from further damage and maintain animal performance.

Avoid overgrazing. Some species can tolerate more defoliation than others, but in general, plants must not be grazed lower than 4 inches. This is typically advised at any time of year, but it is especially critical following Continue reading

What’s so Critical about Fall Cutting?

Amber Friedrichsen, Associate Editor, Hay and Forage Grower
(Previously published in Hay & Forage Grower: August 29, 2023)

The critical fall period for alfalfa has been said to start about six weeks before the first killing frost, which is roughly around the first week of September for most of the Midwest. This hard stop in harvest schedules is supposed to ensure plants store enough energy in their roots to survive the winter, but with improved alfalfa varieties, variable stand conditions, and warmer weather patterns, how critical can this period really be?

Despite heat indices recently reaching the triple digits in some parts of the Central U.S., temperatures will likely calm down as we flip the calendar from August to September. The sun is also setting noticeably earlier each day, and the combination of milder temperatures and shorter day lengths sends a signal to alfalfa to prepare for fall dormancy.

Alfalfa will begin Continue reading

Don’t Bet on Wet Hay

Mike Rankin, Hay and Forage Grower Managing Editor
(Previously published in Hay & Forage Grower: August 8, 2023)

It seems drought has dominated the agricultural news feed for several years. Extended dry weather can dramatically reduce hay yields, but wet weather or simply baling hay that is too high in moisture can destroy a hay crop.

In a recent University of Nebraska BeefWatch newsletter, Extension Educators Hannah Smith, Ben Beckman, and Connor Biehler outlined some of the concerns and remedies for hay that is too high in moisture.

Top on the list of concerns is hay combustion. When hay is baled above 20% moisture, microbes begin to break down plant tissue, and mold starts to form. This same biological activity creates heat and the possibility of combustion.

“Bale combustion can begin at Continue reading

Forage Management and Heavy Rain Events

Victor Shelton, NRCS State Agronomist/Grazing Specialist

Moisture, or rather the lack of sufficient amount of moisture, is still an issue for quite a bit of the Midwest. Some areas have certainly been blessed with more rain than others, but I must remind you and myself that we’re only about two weeks away from a drought from about any time period. We should always strive to take advantage of and conserve any moisture we receive.

I’ve been repairing some fence lines along wooded areas that seem to be testing my patience. Windstorms with dying or dead ash trees don’t make a good combination.  That has caused me to dig and replace a few fence posts that were in the line of spoilage. On a somewhat positive point, it allowed me the opportunity to evaluate the soil moisture in the depth of the post hole. Even though I’ve had rain, soil moisture was a little less than normal as I dug deeper – but it could have been a lot drier.

You can’t change the amount of Continue reading

Dealing with Drought-stressed Forages

Michelle Sweeten, MSU Forage and Livestock Educator, Luce County
Kable Thurlow, MSU Beef and Grazing Educator, Gladwin County
(Previously published online with Michigan State University Extension: 

(Image Source: Kable Thurlow, Michigan State University Extension)

Do you have a plan for your drought-stressed forage fields?

Throughout Michigan, farmers are watching the skies and wondering when the Great Lakes are going to send measurable rain showers. With dry forecasts, producers need to make plans to ensure their fields’ longevity and health allow for future grazing or hay cuttings. Assessing your farm’s needs is critical to making the best decision for your operation.

For hay fields, consider leaving the cutting height taller to minimize increased soil temperatures and negative effects on the crops’ root growth. Continue reading

Will You Have Enough Hay for the Winter?

Chris Penrose, OSU Extension Educator ANR, Morgan County

The early dry weather allowed most of us to get our first cutting hay in a timely manner, and now we are into second-cutting hay. This is the time of the year that I like to remind everyone that it is a great time to assess if you have enough hay for the winter, as well as to consider if there are other things that can be done to assure adequate feed for livestock this winter.

If you are going to have plenty of hay, can you graze some of those hay fields after second cutting? It is always cheaper to graze than to make hay. If you don’t need the fields to graze, can you make some extra to sell if you need the income? If you are short on hay, can you get enough in subsequent cuttings? If not, have you recently soil tested your fields? Improving fertility will help improve yields for the rest of the season.

How are your pastures holding up? So far Continue reading