July 6, 2009

Contact: Cornell Cooperative Extension county offices:
Clinton: 518-561-7450, Essex: 518-962-4810, Franklin: 518-483-7403, Jefferson: 315-788-8450, Lewis: 315-376-5270; and St. Lawrence: 315-379-9192

Making Hay in a Day Resources Online for NNY Farmers

Northern New York -- The latest resources provided by the farmer-guided Northern New York Agricultural Development Program to help northern NY’s farmers be more efficient and more profitable offer information on how to “make hay in a day.” The website at
www.nnyagdev.org offer farmers information on research showing how to harvest hay in one day’s time.

In “Wide Swath Research: Open the Mowing Window While Maintaining Forage Quality, recently-retired Cornell Cooperative Extension Educator Tom Kilcer writes, “New York farms that wide swath now have more potential hours for mowing (and) yet still preserve forage quality. Waiting for the dew to dry and the very limited mowing capacity on nearly all farms often means another four to five day delay with major reduction in digestibility. Utilizing wide swath research, farmers are able to mow wide swath on clear evenings, or early in the morning, and accumulate the same feed value as mowing that morning. For farms with limited mowing capacity, this opens wide the window of opportunity to get the crop harvested.”

Some of the highlights of research done by Kilcer include:
• Traditional mowing of haycrop silage to a narrow swath and leaving the forage overnight reduced by more than 300 pounds the potential milk/ton of dry matter in the haylage.

• Narrow swaths, mowed during the day, can hold much of the day’s heat throughout the night; wide swaths, exposed to the night sky, can rapidly drop in temperature conserving many of the carbohydrates lost in the narrow swath.

• Hay thrown into a narrow swath shades nearly all the leaves and there is no photosynthesis for re-building digestible carbohydrates. As the temperature rises, respiration accelerates, destroying more digestible material. Laying swaths out to more than 80 percent of the cutterbar and not conditioning allows photosynthesis to continue.

• An evening cutting system only is valid for clear nights with radiant cooling. If the evening is overcast and warm, cutting in the evening means there is potential for quality losses to equal a narrow swath overnight.

• Wide swath mowing increases drying speeds, allowing quick quality harvests within the window that forage is high quality.

• For early rapid dry down, natural evapo-transpiration is more effective for moisture removal than any mechanical effort.

• For silage, conditioning is not necessary.

• There is no need to wait for dew to evaporate before mowing providing the swath is laid in a width greater than 80 percent of the cutterbar. Mowing with the dew on and putting it into less than a wide swath will simply capture 2 tons/acre more moisture within the narrow swath, further delaying the onset of chopping.

Kilcer cautions that, in the first year that farmers switch to wide-swath mowing, many find that the majority of the forage is over dry for optimum silage. He suggests using a keen eye to observe when the wide swath takes on a grey cast that generally indicates the hay is at proper moisture level for ensiling.

In “Wide Swath Research: Do I Need to Wait for the Dew to Dry?” Kilcer writes, “When first switching to wide swath, running samples through a forage tester will help to re-calibrate the decision of when to chop. The farm also needs to have the chopping equipment and crews ready to roll hours earlier than they are used to doing.”

Farmers who represent the diversity of dairy, crop, fruit, vegetable, livestock, maple, forestry and biofuel production and agricultural economic development and stewardship in Clinton, Essex, Franklin, Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties lead the Northern New York Agricultural Development Program that directs funds made available by the New York Senate for on-farm research, education and technical assistance to help northern NY’s farmers be more efficient and more profitable.

Production resources and more information are posted here. # #