Early cutting of cool season grass provides the best quality according to Anthony Ohmes, agronomy specialist, University of Missouri Extension.
"Although, you may be harvesting fewer bales in May you will also be storing and hauling fewer nutrition-empty (straw like) bales this winter. Another advantage is extending vegetative growth into summer, delaying summer slump," said Ohmes.
Quality hay and grazing comes from leaves. In grass, when seed heads emerge, energy begins to shift to stalk strength (more stemmy hay) and seed development, which takes energy away from leaves. As stems increase, hay quality decreases.
According to Ohmes, the ideal harvest timing is in the boot stage, which is before the seed heads emerge.
Good drying weather is one concern with early harvest. Hay should be at 18% to 16% moisture for round bales before baling for safe storage.
Another consideration is incorporating baleage, higher moisture hay wrapped in plastic, which takes on feeding quality of silage on some hay acres.
"May is also the window to begin the process of converting K31 fescue fields to novel endophyte fescue in September," said Ohmes.
The process involves a spray-smother-spray program where glyphosate is applied 10 to 14 days prior to planting a smother summer annual grass, such as pearlmillet followed by spraying glyphosate 10 to 14 days prior to planting novel endophyte fescue in September.
For more information, contact any of these MU Extension agronomy specialists in southwest Missouri: Tim Schnakenberg in Stone County, (417) 357-6812; Jill Scheidt in Barton County, (417) 682-3579 and Sarah Kenyon in Howell County, (417) 256-2391.