The production of good-quality hay
Stockfarm|February 2021
Good-quality hay is known for several properties.
Prof Chris Dannhauser, grazing consultant

Firstly, it must have a nice green color. Yellow or brown hay is indicative of substandard quality due to late cutting, rain, or mold. Good-quality hay should also be leafy with few stems. It does not necessarily have a characteristic smell, but a musty or sour smell will deter animals.

The quality of hay can be determined through chemical analyses. The nutritional value of different hay qualities is shown in Table 1. Remember that livestock’s intake will be reduced if the protein in grass hay drops below 6 to 8%, leading to weight loss.

Suitable hay crops

Veld grasses not used for grazing can be utilized for haymaking. These usually include red grass, white buffalo grass, and some of the natural Eragrostis species. Thatching grass, turpentine grass, and other unpalatable veld grasses should preferably be avoided.

Lucerne is considered the king of hay crops, as good haymaking practices will result in excellent quality hay. The only problem with lucerne is leaf loss when it is left unbaled for too long or handled too often.

Suitable grasses for haymaking include Eragrostis and teffin higher rainfall areas, and blue buffalo grass in the drier parts. Smutsfinger, white buffalo, Rhodes, and even bottle-brush grass in warm, sandy areas are often used for haymaking. There are also specific cultivars for hay production, such as American Leafy and PUK 436 (Eragrostis), Finecut (Rhodes grass) and Molopo (blue buffalo grass). The Gayndah cultivar (blue buffalo grass) is also very palatable and used mainly for summer grazing and foggage.

Fertilisation of hayfields

Nutrients such as nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K), as well as other micro-and macro-elements, are constantly removed from hay fields, as the hay is cut and removed, and not grazed. On pastures, nutrients are returned to the soil via the manure and urine of animals, a process that does not take place on hay fields.

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