To make high quality hay: cut good quality pasture at the perfect time, dry it down as fast as possible, bale it promptly when it reaches the optimum moisture level and then store it in a dry, dark environment. Of course, if these were simple steps, every farmer would have premium hay every year.
We offer two levels of baling services:
Cut and Bale We can cut and bale your hay when you decide that your hay is ready to be made.
Partners in Production We can work with you from the day you shut-up your paddock for hay to remove weeds, to decide when to cut, to bale the hay and then to add fertilizer to replace the nutrients removed in the hay.
Some interesting facts about hay production:
When a paddock is closed for either hay or baleage, the leaves of the grasses and clovers grow out first, then the plants develop buds which, in time, bloom and eventually form seed. The fibre content of pasture increases as it grows, while the protein content diminishes. Most of the protein found in hay and baleage is in the leaves, while the stalks are richer in fibre.
A crop of hay taken from pasture removes about 16 kilograms of nitrogen, 5 kilograms of phosphorus, 24 kilograms of potassium and 2 kilograms of sulphur per tonne of hay.
Cut hay begins to lose quality immediately, regardless of the weather. Why? One main reason for early loss of quality is because a freshly cut plant is still respiring. Plant respiration is the process where starch and sugar are converted and burned as energy. Plant energy, in the form of sugar and starch, is partially what accounts for the total digestible nutrients in hay. A cut plant continues to respire until its moisture content drops below 40 per cent. Fresh cut hay has a moisture content around 80 per cent, meaning that respiration and the loss of starch and sugar continues for some time after cutting.
If hay is to be at 18 to 20 per cent for small rectangular bales, then there is a lot of water to be lost from the grass at the time of cutting (80% moisture content). The first 10 percentage points of moisture is lost through the stomates – small openings in the leaves that regulate the plant’s temperature through water loss. Stomates open only in light. They close up at night and in the middle of a thick swath. The second stage of drying takes place at a slower rate and brings the hay down from approximately 70 per cent moisture to approximately 20 per cent. It begins when the stomates have closed but water is still being lost from the leaf and stem surfaces. The third and last stage of moisture loss involves water held in the stem.
The time of cutting affects the nutritional composition of hay. Plant leaves accumulate sugar through photosynthesis during daytime and break down the sugars through respiration. This means plant sugars are lowest in the morning and highest in the evening. Though hay cut late in the day has higher sugar and energy content, this can be lost when the drying effect of the sun is missed and the cut hay continues respiring through the night. Warm nights can cause significant dry matter losses. Hay at 70 per cent moisture can lose almost two per cent of its dry matter in a 12-hour night at 20 C. We are fortunate to have cool nights in Masterton.