How to make hay
Hay is grass, legumes, or other green plants that have been cut and dried and stored for use as animal fodder for large grazing animals reared as livestock, such as cattle, goats, sheep, and horses.
Perishable forage is dried into a product that can be safely stored and easily transported without danger of spoilage while keeping nutrient loss to a minimum.
This ensures livestock farmers can feed cattle and other animals all year round.
Hay requires a lot of heat from the sun and air to dry grass, legumes and green vegetation being used.
The best suitable crops for making hay as highlighted by infonet-biovision.org entail:
- BOMA Rhodes grass
- Napier grass
- Rhodes grass
- Leguminous fodder crops e.g. cowpea and Lucerne.
The Boma Rhodes grass variety that is popular with hay farmers in Kenya needs little water to grow and matures quickly, in less than four months. It has a high productivity per acre and is very nutritious. It is harvested twice every year.
Hay serves by conserving excess fodder during the rainy season for use during the dry season and produces a cost-effective nutritional livestock feed according to livestockkenya.com
Making hay starts with the selection of the best planted or natural pastures at the end of rains when there is plenty of sunshine.
The grass is usually selected first as it matures earlier than legumes.
The grass and legumes are then spread on the field to dry turning them once a day for three days.
The dried grass-legume is finally baled with strings and packaged in a simple box with dimensions of three feet long, one and a half feet wide and two feet deep. The box is then lifted to release the bale adds livestockkenya.com.
In large scale operations, a mower is usually used.
Tedding is then done the following morning by turning the swath and allowing forage that was on the bottom or in clumps to come to the top and dry better, resulting in more uniform drying and reducing wet spots in the hay.
Tedding is done once as when the hay is too dry or if it is tedded too often, leaves are broken off causing a loss in forage quality and yield losing protein and digestibility.
The hay then undergoes raking into a windrow allowing for increased drying before the hay is baled to increase the openness of the windrow for drying.
Raking should be done in a way that it ensures minimal leaf loss.
A baler is then used for baling for it to be stored properly.
Drying agents are used on legumes as they allow water to dry from the legume forage faster, making it possible to bale the hay a few hours sooner notes livestockkenya.com.
Preservatives allow the hay to be baled at higher moisture content without molding and spoiling.
Hay must be stored in a dry environment as bales or in haystacks that are covered with plastic sheets to prevent rainwater and prevent exposure to excess sunshine adds infonet-biovision.org
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