Putting Carryover Hay to Good Use April 11, 2017
If you were left with more hay than you expected after the open winter, save some in case of drought and then plan how to use the rest strategically to extend its value.
Consider uses that will be particularly beneficial to your operation. Usually that means feeding hay instead of something else that would be more expensive. It also can mean feeding hay so you can make other resources more profitable. For example, replace old, thinning alfalfa fields with new seedings this spring, then use carryover hay to substitute for lost yield during this seeding year. Future hay yields from new fields should be more abundant and reliable.
Another option would be to add legumes to cool-season grass pastures or hay meadows. We usually lose some forage production during the year of legume establishment as you control competition from the existing sod, but your carryover hay can be fed instead as needed. Better grazing and future meadow production should be the result.
Another possibility that could be especially useful is to feed hay a little longer this spring before turning cows out to pasture. Or maybe feed this hay mid-summer to provide extra rest and recovery time for your pastures, increasing their productivity. Grass weakened by heavy grazing during previous years will get extra time to recover before experiencing this year’s stress of grazing.
Other options would be to use less fertilizer on pastures or haylands and make up for the reduced production with your carryover hay or to chop less silage and use hay next winter.
Planning strategically for this "bonus" hay can help ensure you get the best value from it for your operation.