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Management Practices: Improve Hay Production

July 15, 2019

Announcer: Farm & Family is a production of the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

Amy Myers: Today, we're talking about management practices to improve hay production.

Hello. I'm Amy Taylor Myers, and welcome to Farm & Family. Today we're speaking with Rocky Lemus, Mississippi State University Extension Forage Specialist.

So Rocky, hay season has started and there are several practices that are important to remember when improving efficiency and protecting the economic investment. How can a producer maintain a weed-free hay field?

Rocky Lemus: Amy, there are excellent broadleaf control programs for grass hay crops. Controlling grasses could be more challenging due to selectivity. There's a limited number of herbicides that can be used on bahiagrass. Producer need to control weeds when they are less than six inches. If a high differential that is ... such as the weed is taller than the hay crop, then it might be possible to use a non-selective herbicide.

In wide palm application to remove the weed. For more information specific weed control practices, as well as in grazing restrictions, I invite producers to visit the Mississippi Weed Control Guidelines, which is publication 15-32.

Amy Myers: Now, forage production is dependent in fertilization practices. What recommendations should a producer follow to optimize production?

Rocky Lemus: Fertilizing practices for bermudagrass and bahiagrass hay production are very similar. For established stands of grass, we should recommend to take a soil sample in November, December, and send to a soil testing lab in order to determine soil pH and soil levels of phosphorus, potassium, and magnesium. The initial spring application of fertilizer based on the soil test recommendation should be applied as soon as the grass starts growing. That depends on the state, depends on the part of the state where you live. That can range from February to April.

Limes should be applied anytime, but the sooner the better. We recommend to apply 50 units of nitrogen per acre. We only recommend phosphate in part of the [inaudible 00:02:10] early in the spring. Apply additional applications of nitrogen for each cutting, usually 50 units of nitrogen and the rest of the potash after that first cutting as well.

Amy Myers: And what about the efficiency of some of the nitrogen sources?

Rocky Lemus: It's usually a fertilizer source that reduce volitalization loss is very important. Urea might be suitable for a spring application, but ammonium nitrate or Urea ammonium sulfate might be more suitable for nitrogen applications during the summer months. It is important to note that usually Urea or Urea ammonium sulfate might have a 12 and 13 percent yearly reduction compared to ammonium nitrate.

Amy Myers: And when should a producer start making hay?

Rocky Lemus: The first growth of this grass is in the spring, can be harvested when bermudagrass, for example, reaches a height of 14 to 18 inches, and bahiagrass reaches about 10 to 12 inches, or when there is enough growth to justify use of the harvest equipment. After the first harvest, plan to harvest on four to five week schedule. If harvest delay beyond four weeks, try not to go beyond six weeks because there is usually no increase in yield of bermudagrass. The reason for that is because the bud is beginning to die and quality continues to decrease.

Delaying harvest from a four-week cutting to an eight-week cutting can decrease protein content by 45 percent and digestibility by 13 percent.

Amy Myers: And we have the weather factor that can impact drying time, so how can a producer increase drying time?

Rocky Lemus: During the summer the rainfall comes from thunderstorms which might appear daily, and the chance for obtaining three to four days without rain are greatly reduced. Bermudagrass and bahiagrass dries faster than grasses with large diameter stems, such as sorghum and grassit. It's important that grasses with less than be processed to a condition in order to crush the stems and speed up drying time.

All cut hay crop should be laid out as wide a swath as possible to maximize exposure to wind and sunlight, therefore reducing drying time. If the crop gets too dry before weed rowing, wait and rake in the morning just as the surface begins to dry to avoid leaf losses. Ideally, the hay crops should be 12 to 50 percent moisture before baling. Grasses put off in the large round bales have been baled when moisture drops below 20 percent. But 18 to 20 percent moisture will likely result in some heating and molding as well.

Amy Myers: All right. Thank you so much. Today we've been speaking with Rocky Lemus, Mississippi State University Extension Forage Specialist. I'm Amy Taylor Myers, and this has been Farm & Family. Have a great day.

Announcer: Farm & Family is a production of the Mississippi State University Extension Service.

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