Hay Harvest Is Near

As we near mid-May, it is important to have hay harvest equipment in excellent condition so the forage can be harvested at optimum quality when weather conditions allow and to reduce harvest delays because of equipment breakdowns. What are “Best Management Practices” associated with haymaking?

  • Take advantage of every hour that the sun shines. While mid-afternoon is the time of day that there is a slight improvement in forage quality because of elevated sugar content, if the weather forecast for drying hay to safe baling moisture is questionable, consider mowing in the morning to have more drying time.
  • Mow the forage with a properly set mower-conditioner so the stems are crimped every three to four inches. This will increase rate of moisture loss.
  • Lay the forage in a wide swath and not a narrow windrow. This, too, will increase drying rate.
  • Consider tedding the crop if there is concern about not getting to a safe baling moisture before inclement weather occurs. Tedding should occur when the moisture is greater than 50 percent to reduce yield and quality loss from the aggressive action of tedding when the forage is too dry.
  • Raking the forage into a windrow should occur when the moisture is around 40 percent. If raked at a lower moisture level, there will be loss of leaves which will result in yield and quality loss. Set the tines on the rake high enough that soil does not contaminate the forage.
  • Bale small rectangular bales at 20 percent moisture, large round bales at 18 percent moisture, and large rectangular bales at 17 percent moisture. Hay baled at too high a moisture content will heat, mold, and spontaneous combustion is possible.
  • Store high quality hay under cover (Examples: properly ventilated building, hay tarp properly secured) to reduce deterioration from weathering. Storing hay on a six-inch layer of very coarse rock placed on geotextile cloth will reduce (not eliminate) deterioration at the bottom of the bales.

The link below is a video about the process of making dry hay.


Many of you have put much effort into producing the forage thus far. Use best management practices to get the forage cut, dried and into storage. Be safe!


A successful hay harvest requires using proper harvest procedures of mowing, tedding, raking, and baling.

A successful hay harvest requires using proper harvest procedures of mowing, tedding, raking, and baling.

Share This Article
It is the policy of the Purdue University that all persons have equal opportunity and access to its educational programs, services, activities, and facilities without regard to race, religion, color, sex, age, national origin or ancestry, marital status, parental status, sexual orientation, disability or status as a veteran. Purdue is an Affirmative Action Institution. This material may be available in alternative formats. 1-888-EXT-INFO Disclaimer: Reference to products in this publication is not intended to be an endorsement to the exclusion of others which may have similar uses. Any person using products listed in this publication assumes full responsibility for their use in accordance with current directions of the manufacturer.
Pest&Crop newsletter - Department of Entomology Purdue University 901 Mitch Daniels Blvd West Lafayette, IN 47907

© 2024 Purdue University | An equal access/equal opportunity university | Copyright Complaints | Maintained by Pest&Crop newsletter

If you have trouble accessing this page because of a disability, please contact Pest&Crop newsletter at luck@purdue.edu.