Sep 16, 2014
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Getting the Quality out of 2nd Cutting Fescue Hay

July 10, 2014
Cutting Hay

Second-cutting fescue makes quality hay when stems and seed heads were cut earlier.

Farmers cutting fescue hay don't get many second chances to make quality hay. This is a one-in-five year, says Craig Roberts, University of Missouri Extension forage specialist.

Cool spring temperatures made for bad fescue hay.

"The growing season was at least two weeks behind schedule," Roberts said on a weekly teleconference. Lack of sunshine and warmth led to reduced leaf growth.

Before fescue grew enough leaves to make hay, the grass matured. The plants set seed heads. Day length, not temperature or leaf growth, determines maturity.

First-cutting fescue grew more stems than forage.

"The good news is cool weather and rains continue well into June," Roberts said. Normally, rains taper off and temperatures rise in June. Growth almost stops on cool-season grasses.

"This year, we see some good second-cutting fescue hay," Roberts said. "Farmers who cut seed heads see excellent regrowth."

Hay should be cut, dried, baled and stored under plastic or hay shed before the next rain.

"We just need a few days of sunshine," Roberts said.

High-endophyte hay cut in spring loses about half of the endophyte poison in storage. That improves winter feed.

June rains have hurt quality of second-cutting alfalfa, Roberts said. Alfalfa growers get more chance to make hay, with four or five cuttings a year.

Cool-season grasses take a late growth spurt with the return of fall rains. Grass grown after mid-August can be stockpiled in the field for winter grazing. That provides better feed than hay.

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