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Hay Quality Showing Up at 4-H Fairs Surprisingly Good

Hay Quality Showing Up at 4-H Fairs Surprisingly Good
Catch is most exhibitors don't have much of it.

With hay judging at two county fairs under my belt, it's obvious that hay quality brought to the fair is by far the best in the several years I've been judging hay. I've evaluated some 50 samples so far. Most of it is blue-ribbon hay, which isn't usually the case.

Much of what I'm seeing is second-cutting alfalfa. Some is a bit stemmy with some dead stems, either picked up from the first cutting or else from plants that didn't regrow, but nearly every sample is full of leaves.

Hay Quality Showing Up at 4-H Fairs Surprisingly Good

The lack of rain to interfere with haymaking may explain why the color is so green and the hay is attractive. The presence of so many leaves is harder to explain. With low humidity you would expect more leaves to be knocked off during raking. One exhibitor may have provided the clue- his family was very careful about when they raked their hay, and refused to rake it too dry during the day.

Most of these samples would likely run 15 to 19% crude protein and test out well on the relative feed value scale, where 100 is average. However, the only way to know for sure would be to test the hay. That's why Chris Parker, Morgan County Extension educator, and author of Forage Notes in Indiana Prairie Farmer, believes so strongly in testing hay.

The question for many people may be if you have hay like what's showing up at fairs, but only have a couple hundred bales of it or so, who do you feed it to? Dairymen can likely justify feeding it to lactating, high producing cows. Beef cow/calf men that only need hay that is of good enough quality to maintain cows through the winter may want to save it for another use. It certainly is far better quality than beef cows need to survive through the winter.

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