County Ag News
Recent years of drought and suboptimal haymaking conditions have left many cattlemen with either reduced or poorer quality forage supplies, thus resulting in sharp forage price increases over the past two years. Feed costs for dairy and cow-calf producers are often greater that 60 percent of total production costs, with a large proportion of that 60 percent derived from forage expenditures.
In the Midwest, the primary factor that influences the quality of dry hay that is harvested is weather. In many instances, wet spring weather delays first cutting, resulting in mature hay that is lower in quality, palatability, and digestibility. If harvest is not delayed, often times the window of opportunity for optimal drying is reduced, resulting in hay that is baled either too wet, or after it has been rained on, resulting in reduced quality at the time of feeding. In both of these circumstances, reduced hay quality and palatability will likely lead to increased waste at the feeder, particularly if bales have been stored outside.
The practice of producing baleage or wrapping bales of high moisture hay is an alternative storage method that more producers are interested in. Hay that is baled with moisture content between 25 and 65 percent may be plastic wrapped and used to produce baleage.