UNL CropWatch May 21, 2010: Plan Grass Harvest to Capture the Most Nutrient Value

UNL CropWatch May 21, 2010: Plan Grass Harvest to Capture the Most Nutrient Value

May 21, 2010

Native meadows will soon start growing rapidly and bromegrass will be heading out. Grass hay harvest won't be far behind, but don't wait too long.

Often grass hay harvest may be delayed until it's more convenient, like after everything's planted or during the first or second corn irrigation.

Instead of fitting grass harvest in between other work, consider cutting your grass hay to match grass nutrient content with the nutritional needs of your livestock. The higher nutrient hay can help meet the needs of your livestock and minimize supplement costs.

Protein and energy concentration decline in grass hay as plants mature and become stemmy. As this happens, the types of livestock that can be fed this hay without adding supplements becomes more limited. For example, grass hay cut at early head often can support more than one pound of daily gain for pregnant yearling heifers all by itself, but if the same grass matures, it won't even maintain weight of a mature cow without some protein supplements.

To get the most from your harvest, first plan what type of livestock will receive the grass hay from each field. Young livestock need high nutrient concentrations so cut that hay before or as heads begin to emerge. If the hay matures, plan to feed dry cows instead. Let the grass produce a bit more growth and cut it after it is well headed out, but before seeds develop.

Matching your hay harvest with your plan of use can pay handsome dividends in lower costs and reduced supplements.

Bruce Anderson
Extension Forage Specialist