Too wet, too dry; rarely just right. Putting up high-quality hay is a balancing act that requires good timing, reliable equipment and a little bit of luck. Monitoring moisture levels in your hay crop throughout the production process can help harvest better, more consistent high-quality hay.
Hay and forage quality is a measure of characteristics affecting feed consumption and nutritive value.1 It has a big impact on livestock health and performance and, ultimately, the livestock producer’s feed bill. University of Missouri Extension specialists point to these factors as the greatest impact on hay quality:2
- Moisture content at baling and time of storage
- Stage of maturity at baling
- Storage conditions
- The forage species
Manage moisture to preserve dry matter
All forages lose dry matter as they cure, and losses begin at cutting. Using crimpers and crushers can greatly reduce dry matter loss while also reducing curing time in the swath for less exposure to weather, and less leaf shattering and respiration losses.2 Using Case IH ThirtyPlus™ hay preservative can help, too, by letting you bale hay with moisture content up to 30 percent without worrying about overheating or toxic molds.
Whether you put up hay for your own livestock or market your hay off the farm, a moisture tester is invaluable in preserving the value of your crop. It helps take the guesswork out of testing moisture and reduces spoilage and lost revenue due to human error. It also helps reduce additional dry matter losses during raking and baling.
Case IH moisture testers help you monitor moisture throughout the hay production process, all the way through feeding or marketing. Our portable moisture testers are designed to deliver reliable results in the windrow and in the bale. Case IH baler-mounted testers let you constantly monitor moisture and receive real-time in-cab feedback.
Tips for success
Not all balers — or bales — are the same. Your equipment, along with the shape and size of a bale, can influence moisture test results. Small rectangular bales tend to be denser at the bottom; large rectangular bales tend to be densest in the upper corners. Whether testing in the windrow or in the bale, be sure to take multiple readings.
As we move from hay harvesting to hay marketing and feeding, visit your Case IH dealer or the Case IH Partstore to learn more about how portable moisture testers can help you keep an eye on your hay inventory. And before you take your next cutting, consider how a baler-mounted moisture tester can help you make better decisions about your hay as you’re putting it up. After all, the more you know about your crop, the better you can preserve its value.
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1Russell MA, Johnson KD. Selecting Quality Hay for Horses. Purdue University Agronomy Extension website. https://www.agry.purdue.edu/ext/forages/publications/id-190.htm. Published January 1993. Accessed July 12, 2017.
2Henning JC, Wheaton HN. Making and Storing Quality Hay. University of Missouri Extension website. http://extension.missouri.edu/p/G4575. Reviewed October 1993. Accessed July 12, 2017.