Many areas of Victoria and New South Wales have recently experienced severe frosts. In many cases this has ruined crops for grain and decisions are now being made whether to cut for silage or hay.
These decisions need to be made reasonably quickly, as the later the crop is cut the greater the drop in quality. The major reason is the later stage of maturity usually resulting in higher fibre and lower protein and energy. While frost may kill the head, the plant still goes through its growth cycle and the quality of the resulting hay is more closely tied to the stage of maturity than anything else. Hay with frosted grain heads does not necessarily mean the hay is sweeter, FeedTest 2013/14 records show frosted hays demonstrated no signs of elevated sugars.
In many cases frost will also have burned the uppermost leaves, which will brown off and result in a lower nutritive value. These may shatter before baling but if they persist they will decrease the colour and value of the hay. Severe stem frosts will suffer this to a greater degree so it is probably worth cutting as soon as possible following the frost.
There are many reports of very dry conditions in Northern Victoria and New South Wales to the point where paddocks are deemed not worth cutting for hay or silage. Dry conditions can lead to higher nutritive value of hays but the yield per acre is often too low to justify the cost of cutting and baling.
Current dry conditions and frosts appear to have affected quite large areas and there is some question in the market place on the amount and quality of hay that will be available this season. In a potentially limited market – it is important to test to ensure the hay meets your requirements
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