Photo by Lisa Bicknell
Many Estill County farmers were busy baling hay last week after what some would consider a long overdue break in the rain.
By LISA BICKNELL
CV&T News Editor
Much like last year, a soggy spring has delayed haying season, but after a few days of sunshine, local farmers were busy “layin’ it on the ground” last week.
Unfortunately, too much rain can delay the cutting of hay, and hay harvested too mature is often of poor quality, particularly if it gets rained on after it is cut.
Estill County extension agent Eric Baker explains, “Hay harvested late due to few good weather days such as last year (and some recently) will have lower nutritional value for livestock.
“This past winter, several farmers lost cattle due to poor nutrition as a result of poor quality hay, animal stress from having to walk through deep mud, and cool rainy weather. It was kind of a perfect storm of events that led to the increased livestock mortality.”
Baker recommends that farmers test their hay each fall for nutritional quality and formulate a ration that meets the needs of their livestock.
“I am happy to help farmers with forage testing and rations,” he said.
To improve the quality of the second cutting of hay, Baker recommends trying to harvest forages at the proper stage of maturity, as well as avoiding rain damage and baling too moist if at all possible. He cautions not to cut hay too low and to consider applying 40-60 pounds of actual nitrogen fertilizer after the first cutting.
“We still recommend soil testing to know your soil fertility levels,” said Baker.
On the bright side, abundant rains have caused pastures to be green and lush, at least for now, and many cattle are looking better after a season of abundant grazing.
“With livestock grazing pastures, nutrients are recycled and fertility levels stay fairly consistent,” said Baker.
However, if the ground dries out, that can change.
“If grass pastures are grazed too close, they can suffer too, especially if we see drier conditions.”