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Harvest and Storage of Forage

Tips For Protecting Your Forage Investment For The Long Haul

Tips for protecting your forage investment for the long haul

How you harvest and store forage can mean the difference between spoiled, useless product and healthy animal feed. Remembering some simple steps as you develop your forage management plan will keep your forage in the best condition for the long run.

Forage harvesting: best practices

A harvester gathering forageAcross the Southeast, growers continue to see the benefits of taking time before and during forage harvest to pave the way for optimum final results. During harvest planning, think about the following areas to help ensure a successful harvest and prepare the crop for ideal storage conditions.

  • Proper equipment operation and maintenance: This includes keeping fields clear of debris, cleaning and prepping equipment and sharpening machinery blades. Don’t use re-cutters or screens unless moisture levels drop below recommended levels.
  • Stage of maturity and stubble height: The goal of your harvest is to cut down the forage to reap the final product while not compromising the plants’ health. The timing can be adjusted if needed, or the depth of the cut, just as long as the plant stand and vigor remains strong.
  • Moisture content: Follow the guidelines established by your state Extension when it comes to harvesting forage at the proper moisture content. Forage harvested at too high of a moisture level can suffer heat damage, dry-matter loss and moisture spoilage. Forage harvested with too low of a moisture level loses valuable nutrients.
  • Length of cut: Adjust the machinery's settings so it cuts the plants based on the type of storage it will be subject to.

Storage tips for forage

Did you know that U.S. farmers lose $3 billion of hay every year due to storage problems? Following a few guidelines will help keep your forage storage losses low.

  • Avoid lightning: Keep objects that attract lightning away from hay, and have more than one bale location in case lightning does strike.
  • Pack correctly: Keep the flat ends of the bales butted tightly together, while the rounded sides should remain separated by at least three feet.
  • Placement: Bale rows should run north to south on a well-drained slope. Place them in bright and sunny spots away from shade.
  • Protection: Pack bales as tightly and as densely as possible. Cover the tops and sides of bales. Keep bales on wooden pallets or rocks to avoid soil contact.

For more information on the proper ways of harvesting and storing forage, please consult your local Southern States Agronomy Professional or Extension office.

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