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Follow These Tips to Put Up More High-quality Hay

Spending time now with your hay equipment and in your hayfields can help you put up high-quality forages.

From high-quality dairy hay to horse hay or the grass hay that feeds the country’s expanding cow herd, a timely harvest is good for your livestock, your hay-buying customers and your bottom line. Now is the time to spend some time with your hay equipment and in your hayfields.

Forages play a vital role in many farming operations. They provide an important feedstuff in livestock production. Forages can reduce soil erosion and increase soil structure and organic matter.1 They also can improve your profitability, whether by providing a revenue stream or through improved livestock performance. Forage crops deserve — and require — your attention to achieve top results.

As the Noble Foundation points out, alfalfa is not a plant-it-and-forget-it crop.2 It faces threats, including insects and weed pressure, similar to row crops or small grains. Weekly scouting will help you catch problems before it’s too late. Penn State’s Forage Management Calendar provides monthly steps you can take to improve your forage enterprise.

Here are some additional tips to help you get ready for the season’s first cutting:

  • Check your alfalfa fields for winter kill. Be decisive about whether the stand can be saved.
  • Ready your equipment. Timeliness is perhaps the most important factor in quality hay production. Is your equipment good to go?
  • Sharpen or replace sickle sections, blades and cutting mechanisms. Sharp surfaces make cleaner cuts, which can help improve hay quality and plant recovery.
  • Prepare to fertilize. Many experts recommend adjusting fertility immediately after the first alfalfa cutting.3 And there’s still time to pull a soil sample for analysis.

You’ve got a lot going on this spring. Take advantage of rainy days to make sure your hay equipment is field-ready. Work with the Parts and Service Department at your Case IH dealership to help determine the life span of parts and prioritize those for immediate replacement. And, of course, if you determine replacing an entire piece of equipment is the best option, your Case IH dealer can help you select the right implement from our full line of windrowers, mowers and conditioners and balers.

Hay and forages are valuable. It makes sense to devote the time and resources necessary to maximize that value for your operation.

LEARN MORE HERE

Sample Properly for an Accurate Soil Test.

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RESOURCES
1Forage Crops. Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences website. http://extension.psu.edu/plants/crops/forages. Accessed March 24, 2016.
2Funderburg E. Common Mistakes in Growing Alfalfa. The Samuel Roberts Noble Foundation website. http://www.noble.org/Ag/Soils/GrowingAlfalfa/. Published September 2009. Accessed March 24, 2016.
3Morrison J. Time to Fertilize Alfalfa Ground. Illinois Livestock Trail. University of Illinois Extension website. http://livestocktrail.illinois.edu/pasturenet/paperDisplay.cfm?ContentID=7436. Published June 6, 2005. Accessed March 24, 2016.
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