Lucerne hay remains the premium hay of choice for the discerning livestock owner. To meet market demands, focus on producing hay that meets the following criteria:
- Weeds reduce the aesthetic appeal and palatability of the bales and/or may put livestock at risk of toxicities. Consult your local agronomist about keeping your stand clean.
- Insects have the potential to severely damage lucerne and therefore reduce the yield and quality of the hay. Consult your local agronomist about an insect control programme.
More leaf, less stem
- Protein and other valuable nutrients are concentrated in the leaf.
- Leafy lucerne hay is more readily accepted by livestock. Leaf yield can be maximised through shorter intervals between harvest, by harvesting with less flower and by not drying the crop down too far. Avoid excessive raking (i.e. spreading or turning of the cut lucerne for drying) before baling.
- Select varieties with better leaf holding ability.
- Although colour isn’t always linked with nutritional value, the market prefers greener bales. Greenness is improved by baling more leaf and less stem, by avoiding bleaching from rain or heavy dew and by shed-storing bales well to prevent rain or sun bleaching damage. Avoid mould growth by reaching the target moisture content at harvest.
Keep dusty bales to a minimum
- Don’t harvest the hay too dry or on dusty hot days when topsoil may end up in bales. Horses are more prone to respiratory problems than sheep or cattle from dusty hay.
- Rolling and crimping stems improves the drydown speed of stems (so leaves don’t become dry) and produces a softer hay that is more accepted by livestock.