By Bruce Anderson, University of Nebraska Agronomist
Rained on hay causes many problems. Obviously, feed value of the hay is lowered. And many times, in our rush to put this hay up, it gets baled or stacked too wet, which causes mold or heat damage to develop.
Sometimes a bigger problem, though, is the long-term damage to the regrowing plants. Driving over the field repeatedly -- trying to turn hay to hasten its drying -- will injure regrowth and can cause soil compaction, especially if the ground is soft.
But, not driving on the field leaves an even bigger problem with the windrows. If they stay there until next cutting, plants underneath will be smothered. This not only lowers yield, it creates a terrible weed problem as grasses and broadleaves infest the killed strips. These weeds will contaminate all subsequent cuttings. In addition, if rained on hay windrows are left in the field, they frequently will plug your mower next cutting, both slowing you down and expanding your vocabulary.
So -- remove that hay any way you can. Bale it, chop it, even blow it back on the ground as mulch. You may need to damage plants by driving on them to turn hay to speed drying and get sunlight to plants underneath. But do it anyway to prevent old windrows from ruining the rest of your haying year.
Then, watch for problems in the damaged strips. Insects and weeds may invade, and need treating to prevent further problems.
There isn't much of a positive payback managing rained on hay, but to ignore it is even more expensive.