Posted 28 May 2015. PMN Crop News.
Cut Hay Early for Better Quality
Source: Penn State University Press Release. agsci.psu.edu
University Park, Pennsylvania (May 19, 2015)--This spring has been rather unseasonable. March was cold and damp and then the first half of April remained rather unseasonably cool. The second half of April and early May the temperatures warmed up considerably and the rain stopped.
Now as of May 19 in Southeastern Pennsylvania, Orchard grass is heading and alfalfa is approaching bud stage which is an indicator of mowing to achieve the best quality forage. Unfortunately the dry weather has stressed them and limited their height. Penn State Forage Specialist, Marvin Hall recommends timing forage harvest based on the growth stage of the crop or the calendar (which every is earliest) but not the height since height will be slightly lower than in normal years. Taking a timely cutting soon will likely promote excellent regrowth and set up a good potential for a second cutting in mid to late June.
Maturity is the most important factor affecting forage quality. As plant cell wall content increases, indigestible lignin accumulates. In fact, forage plant maturity changes so rapidly that it is possible to measure significant declines in forage quality every two or three days.
For more information on forage quality see Forage Quality in Perspective.