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Alchemy Acres
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Tip of the Month





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Every herdsman, at some time during the year, confronts the problem of procuring good forage and hay for his charges. If you didn't grow up on a farm, chances are you don't know good hay from diddly. I certainly didn't. I cringe when I think back to that load of baled weeds that I proudly brought in to my beloved animals the first year on my farm. I simply didn't know any better. Hay is hay, right? WRONG!!!!! In the interest of preventing someone else from making the same mistakes I did, I am hereby reprinting an article that comes from the Northern Piedmont NC Growers Assoc. Handbook, Vol. VII, Aug. 1993.

The single most important factor in determining hay quality is the plant maturity at the time of harvest. As plants mature, that is, as they progress from the vegetative to the reproductive (flowering or seed forming) stage, the nutritive value declines. As plants mature, the total yield of hay increases, but the protein energy and the digestibility levels decrease. The hay producer is forced to strive for the best compromise between high yields and nutritive value. As a general rule, the compromise is best reached with legumes (alfalfa, clovers) by harvesting at an early bloom stage. With grasses, (fescue, orchard grass), this compromise is reached when they are just beginning to form their seed heads.

Another important factor in determining hay quality is the proportion of leaves as compared to stems. Leaves contain two to three times as many nutrients as do stems. Naturally, it would follow that the more leafy the hay the higher the nutritive value.

Other factors that should be considered are as follows:

In summary, you should learn the qualities of good hay. Go to your local county fair and examine the bales of hay that the locals have entered. See if you can tell the difference between first and second and third places. Look at the hays, smell and feel them Most of these entries are hay that any of us would want in our barns. Develop a good relationship with your hay man. Find someone who is reliable year after year, and who will tell you the truth about the quality of his hay. Buy from him each year, so he can count on your business and support. A good hay supply is as important as a good veterinarian. Treasure and appreciate such a source. You will be amply rewarded over the years.


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Welcome PageDescription of Dairy HerdWhat's New at the Site?Crafts and Nifty StuffAlchemy's MenagerieTip of the MonthPrevious Tips of the MonthOther Resources of Interest