Nip Grass Hay Before It Heads, Or Else

Nip Grass Hay Before It Heads, Or Else

Nipping grass heads spurs regrowth and improves grazing and hay quality.

If you think that plentiful grass seed heads is a good sign, you're wrong – and losing grazing or feed value, suggests Rob Kallenbach, University of Missouri Extension forage agronomist. It's a signal that pastures or hayfields are no longer producing grazing quality foliage.

For grass quality and quantity, grass seed-head tillers should be nipped early. Cutting seed heads before they emerge makes better feed in many ways. But once seed heads emerge, vegetative growth ends and the reproduction stage begins.

MOWING TIME: Once grass seed head stems shoot, grazing and feed quality grass production stops. Clipping or mowing restarts grass growth.

Leaf growth stops and nutrients flow from leaves to seeds. "For grass to grow again, seed heads must be mowed off," Kallenbach says. Cattle won't eat seed heads unless forced to do so. And, the heads and seed head stems will make up a high percentage of the bales.

After seeds are removed, grass restarts leaf growth. By cutting bad hay now, quality hay growth can restart, adds the forage specialist.

After seeds are removed, grass restarts leaf growth. By cutting bad hay now, quality hay growth can restart, the forage specialist says.

Normally, Kallenbach does not favor spring application of nitrogen fertilizer. In normal weather, the N produces more grass than cattle can graze.

When cattle can't keep up, grass matures and seeds form. If spring grass growth was slow, some N might help, notes Kallenbach. After mature hay is cut, applying up to 50 pounds of N per acre on the stubble may boost yields.

Do the math, he says. With adequate rainfall, one pound of N makes 15 pounds of forage dry matter. The economics work if 50 pounds of N costs less than the value a half big bale of hay.

Source: University of Missouri

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