Hay management tips


By Phil Rucker - Yadkin County Livestock Agent



The 2015 hay season was not the best for many producers. As a result, livestock owners are searching for hay and folks selling hay are pretty popular right now. From what I have heard many producers are anxious and concerned they can’t find enough hay. I have also heard that hay appears to be priced much higher than in years past. I understand hay is short and in very high demand but I’m hoping that hay is fairly priced and no one is taking advantage of this situation. Please put a realistic value on your hay and add a little for a reasonable profit. No one expects you to lose money but everyone wants to be treated fairly. Remember; the next time hay is short; the roles could be reversed. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

IF you have some hay you can sell to help another livestock producer in need, please contact me and let’s see if we can’t make a WIN-WIN for buyer and seller alike.

Management tips and practices to help stretch your hay:

• Figure hay needs to avoid spending more than is necessary

• Know weight of bales if possible to help figure fair price and larger bales will last longer

• Supplement with silage, glutten, soyhulls or other products to reduce hay consumption

• Feed only what they will eat and in a feeding structure (ring, trailer, etc.) to reduce waste

• Reduce the number of head you are feeding: less to feed now and reduced grazing pressure will allow grass to regrow quicker in the spring

Pasture and hayland projects

Fertilizer is a necessity this year to help with forage growth. The dry spell in 2015 and the recent cold wet weather have weakened most forages. They need some extra nutrients to perform well this spring. For some, cutting costs can be good, but being more efficient is better. Soil testing tells you what nutrients are needed, reducing over application while increasing yields. Be sure the pH is in the desired range to insure more efficient utilization of nutrients. Liming is one of the most cost effective but under-used practices you can do. Adding clover improves forage quality and supplies some nitrogen to the forage. Proper grazing and harvesting management, along with a good weed control program strengthens the forage stand, increasing the effectiveness of fertilizer applications. Utilizing several or even one of these management practices will increase the effectiveness of your fertilizer application.

Don’t decide you can’t afford to fertilize this year. You must look at ways to be more cost effective with the applications. Tractors will not perform without fuel and forages will not perform without nutrients. Trying to starve a profit into forage production will eventually lead to a weakened stand and unwanted expense to save it or start over.

Control buttercup and thistle. These weeds are well established in our area as well as across the state. The good news is they are easy to control. Now through late March is a good time to spray these weeds. After three days of high temperatures in the 60’s, apply 2 pints of 2,4-D per acre. This rate of 2,4-D will not kill established clover but can damage seedling clover. Mixing additional herbicides, such as Banvel, will help control a wider variety of weeds but increases the risk of clover injury. When utilizing any herbicide, read and follow label directions. Be sure to treat the weeds before blooms appear or you will be disappointed with the results. Many other herbicide options are available. Call me if you have questions or need additional information.

Seed clover into pastures. Adding clover can help improve the protein and energy content of the forage as well as help reduce the nitrogen fertilizer requirement. Clover will lengthen the grazing season as well.

Sound management will help you keep a strong stand of grass that will work for you for years. With a few management practices, pastures and hay land can be very productive, providing abundant quality forage to our livestock. Isn’t that what we want? Contact me if I can help or answer any questions.

Recommendations for the use of chemicals are included in this publication as a convenience to the reader. The use of brand names and any mention or listing of commercial products or services in this publication does not imply endorsement by the North Carolina Cooperative Extension nor discrimination against similar products or services not mentioned. Individuals who use chemicals are responsible for ensuring that the intended use complies with current regulations and conforms to the product label. Be sure to obtain current information about usage and examine a current product label before applying any chemical. For assistance, contact an agent of the North Carolina Cooperative Extension in your county.

Phil Rucker is the extension agency livestock agent for Yadkin and Davie counties, he may be reached at 336-679-2061 or by emailing phil_rucker@ncsu.edu.

By Phil Rucker

Yadkin County Livestock Agent

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