Cane Hay 8-7-09

Cane Hay 8-7-09

August 7, 2009

Cane hay and other summer annual grasses have grown rapidly this summer.

It's best to cut cane hay or hay from other summer annual grasses relatively early — when it's about waist high. You'll get higher protein and energy content, faster drying, and better palatability.

Some years, though, a timely harvest isn't possible. In the last week I have viewed and received reports of many fields that were well headed out, maturing rapidly, and certainly beyond the recommended harvest stage. If this describes any of your fields, harvest them as soon as possible.

Why Harvest Now?

Of course, delaying harvest until plants are large and mature often means lower forage quality and increased harvest difficulty so the sooner you can harvest them the better. A longer term issue, however, is all the seed these fields can produce. If you allow that seed to mature before cutting, it can pose problems for years to come.

First, little seed will remain in the cut hay this year. Most will shatter from the heads and fall to the ground before harvest or when the plants are struck at harvest. Over the next few years, that seed will germinate and cause potential weed problems for future crops. Because cane and many other summer annual grasses are members of the sorghum family, cross-pollination could result in some seed producing shattercane, which is even harder to control than other weeds.

While the weather may not always allow for optimum harvest timing, cutting as soon as possible will provide better hay now and fewer weeds later.

Bruce Anderson
Extension Forage Specialist