Read Les Vough’s November hay column in the print edition of The Equiery, now available in a tack or feed store near you.
The Frost in the Field
There has not been much change in the hay market since the November print edition of The Equiery went to press. Overall prices held relatively steady at the Westminster Hay Auction, with maybe a slight increase in alfalfa and alfalfa/grass mixed hay prices as we went through the month of October. (Pick up a print edition for the chart on hay prices.)
There wasn’t much hay put up in late October, even though there were a few days of favorable weather. In most cases there wasn’t sufficient growth of hay crops after the rains came to justify harvest. So the hay harvest is over for this year.
If your pastures have not already been destroyed due to drought last summer and to the overgrazing that is common with horse pastures (even in a normal year), do not graze your pastures closer than about three inches this fall and winter. Bunch grasses like orchardgrass and tall fescue store their energy reserves in the lower stem bases so when these grasses are grazed to the ground, most of the plants’ energy reserves are removed and they have little or no energy to survive the winter.
So if you want to keep your pastures in good condition for next year, remove the horses once the pastures have been grazed to three inches in height and feed hay. Grazing your pasture into the ground may save you on feeding some hay now but could cost you a lot more in the long run if you destroy your pasture and have to feed hay next spring and summer because of it. As the saying goes, “Pay me now or pay me later” but it usually costs a lot more to pay later.
Some areas have now had frost. There are no toxic compounds formed in cool-season grasses (orchardgrass, bluegrass, tall fescue, timothy) after frost, as occurs in some warm-season annual grasses (sudangrass, sorghum-sudangrass). So cool-season grasses can be grazed immediately after frost.
If you have areas of taller, rejected growth or weedy areas, fall is a good time to clip. The ground is usually drier in the fall than in late winter so you are less likely to leave ruts or tractor tracks and the plant debris is more likely to decompose over winter. As with the grazing height recommended above, do not clip or mow lower than three or four inches.
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And be sure to pick up the December Equiery for the next Vough’s View from the Hay Mow.