Cutting hay at the proper stage is a difficult task. If hay is too dry, the value of protein and vitamins in that hay is decreased. Likewise, if
hay is not dry enough, it can turn moldy or spoil. Neither type will produce high quality hay bales.
While it would be ideal if you could know definitively how wet or dry hay should be before it is cut, unfortunately, it depends on a variety of factors. These factors include: the type of hay or grass; the maturity of the hay; the shape and size of bales; weather conditions; and how soon the cut hay will be baled.
Most experts agree that hay containing a moisture content of between eight and 15 percent is ready to be cut for baling. The most important factor in determining whether or not hay is ready to be cut is stem moisture. If stem moisture is high, hay producers should stop baling at about 18 percent. That number should be lower when hay will be used for larger bales.
In the past, hay producers had to rely on visual or hand inspections to determine the moisture content of hay. Today, producers are able to pinpoint the exact time to bale through the use of electronic moisture testers or dry foraging in a microwave. This allows hay producers to enjoy a higher yield than in the past.
Once hay goes bad it cannot be fixed. By using an electronic moisture testing device or microwave you can be sure that hay is ready for baling, avoiding waste. Using these methods also save time because producers can more quickly determine moisture content. It also saves time because can be more confident that the hay they are purchasing is high quality and so spend less time inspecting hay and questioning the producer.
The importance of cutting hay at the correct time cannot be underestimated. Today’s hay prices are high and everyone is looking for affordable and quality hay. Hay producers that provide this type of hay will never be lacking for customers. On the flip side, hay producers that sell moldy or overly dry hay will find themselves losing money as customers look elsewhere to purchase their hay.