Although drying time for hay is affected by forage species, environmental conditions, cut height and swath width, Ohio State University Extension educator Clif Little says a good management plan can make a big difference in hay quality. “Proper tedding, raking and equipment care are just some of the steps producers can take to reduce drying time and produce high-quality hay,” he says. “Cutting and drying hay quickly is always important, especially with everything being a little behind this year because of the planting season. Feed prices are high, so anything producers can do to produce quality hay is a benefit.” Little offers the following tips for protecting your hay quality:

• Make sure your mower’s rollers are adjusted properly.

• Cut hay in the morning after the dew is off to help speed drying time and reduce the loss of carbohydrates due to respiration.

Respiration is a natural process and continues until the plant dries to a moisture content of about 40 percent.

• Lay high-yielding forages in a wide swath to give better access to sun and wind.

• Use tedding to reduce drying time by spreading the hay. While tedding increases costs in terms of time and fuel, the increase is offset by a reduction in drying time.

• Ted hay shortly after cutting and when it contains no less than 50 percent moisture to reduce leaf shatter and forage loss.

• Rake hay at an optimal moisture content of 30 to 40 percent.

Raking hay at the improper moisture content can contribute to loss of plant leaf material. Raking when the hay is ready to bale (very dry) can cause major leaf shatter and reduce the overall nutrient content of the forage.

• Bale hay at the proper moisture content based on the size and shape of bales to reduce harvest and storage loss. For most small rectangular and large round bales, the recommended baling moisture content is 18 percent. For high-density large rectangular bales, the range can be 12-14 percent moisture for proper storage.

• If storing hay outside, make sure you choose a location that is dry, preferably on a solid surface, such as rock, and make sure the location is high and open to wind.

Profit Tips: Tips for drying hay