University of Wisconsin Extension Forage Agronomist Dan Undersander says in his new fact sheet that if we understand and use the biology and physics of forage drying properly, not only does the hay dry faster and have less chance of being rained on, but the total digestible nutrients (TDN) of the harvested forage are higher. Specifically, Undersander offers 3 key recommendations:
1. Put cut forage into a wide swath at cutting that covers at least 70% of the cut area.
2. For Haylage: If drying conditions are good, rake multiple swaths into a windrow just before chopping (usually 5 to 7 hours later).
3. For Hay: If drying conditions are good, merge/rake multiple swaths into a windrow the next morning after mowing (when forage is 40 to 60 % moisture) to avoid leaf loss.
For more detail on getting hay harvested efficiently, see Undersander's "Focus on Forage" fact sheet entitled, Field Drying Forage for Hay and Haylage. As we continue to struggle with a forecast that suggests frequent rainfall across Ohio in the foreseeable future, you'll also want to review the University of Wisconsin publication, "Best Practices to Hasten Field Drying of Grasses and Alfalfa" which Undersander also contributed to.