Harvesting hay isn’t the quickest or simplest of tasks. After you’ve selected the right mix for your desired end-user, fertilized and hoped for enough moisture—you’re mowing, tedding, raking and then baling, just to ensure you get the most value as possible from your harvest. The process can often take a few days to work through; it can take three days for hay to cure in the field.
Why Preserving Hay Takes So Long
Hay is generally cut containing around 70% moisture. Dry hay needs to be baled around 14%-18% moisture. This drop in moisture percentage means that almost three tons of moisture need to be removed for every ton of dry hay from cut to dry bales. Factors like low relative humidity and sun help to accelerate the drying process, while things like humidity, cloud cover, dew and rain showers slow down the drying process and may even threaten quality.
For every farmer, time is of the essence. So while traditional wisdom says cutting, drying and curing hay may take a while, early baling may benefit hay producers.
3 Advantages to Early Baling
1. Higher Nutritive Value
Hay begins to lose nutritional value as soon as it's cut, and the longer it sits in the field, the more potential for loss it has. For example, grass hay loses as much as 50% of its vitamin A content in the first 24 hours of the curing process. Alfalfa hay baled at higher moisture levels reduces the risk of leaf loss. In alfalfa, the leaves contain 70% of the plant’s protein and 90% of its vitamins. When it comes to quality, the leaf has a RFQ of 550, while the stems have a RFQ of 80. The quicker hay can be baled and preserved, the more overall nutrition can be protected.
2. Less Dry Matter and Yield Loss
Even after cutting, plants continue to respirate, leading to up to 15% dry matter losses in some forage species. Overall quality can also be impacted, like starches and sugars—energy—can also be lost in the process. By baling and preserving hay earlier, producers can potentially limit these losses.
3. Reduced Weather Dependency
Rain can be a farmer’s best friend, but it can also be his or her worst nemesis at hay cutting time. Timing is everything at hay cutting, and deciding whether the weather and soil will be dry enough to make the process happen can be stressful. A half-inch of rain on cut hay can lead to a 1% drop in total digestible nutrients (TDN). However, for every day after four weeks of maturity that cutting is delayed, half a percent of TDN is lost. The potential to bale hay at higher moistures means less concern with a summer afternoon rain or a stretch of cool, cloudy days.
Bale and Preserve Your Hay Earlier
Anchor™ for Hay is a dry granular product designed to help hay producers preserve higher moisture hay without the risk of spoilage. Anchor for Hay uses a two-part approach. First, an organic acid rapidly reduces pH levels to prevent harmful mold and yeast growth. Then, patented Microbial Catalyst® stimulates bacteria in a state-of-the-art inoculant blend to create additional preserving acid by working with beneficial bacteria naturally found in hay. This process reduces pH levels and targets higher moisture areas deep inside the bale for greater preservation. The best part - it won’t rust your baler!