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A Complete Guide To Quality Hay Making

Dairy industry is growing at a fast pace, but our farmers are not moving with the same speed.  The requirement of nutrients to high yield is very high because of high milk yield and environmental stress to our dairy animals. The cheaper and easily available sources of nutrients to lactating animals are green fodder which is abundantly available in our farmer’s field. But the major problem in our dairy farming is that the supply of green fodder is not regular for the whole year. So, we have to develop different techniques in our dairy units to ensure that the nutrient product is available around the clock.

The cost of dairy farming especially for milk production is very high, if we are rearing animals alone on feed/grains. Dairy feed costs 70-75% and the green fodder's contribution is significant. Animal husbandry is an old business, but recent training, new techniques and research work help in making this profession work better. The present number of cattle in Punjab is about 81.2 lakh, which has 62.4 lakh big animals. There is a need for substantial increase in the current yield of green fodder to provide complete and good quality feed to the animals. One animal gets 30.65 kg of fodder  per day, which is very low. If 40 kg of green fodder is found in a large livestock daily, then there is an annual requirement of 911 million tonnes of green fodder. There is enough time when our farm has huge quantity of green fodder, but to conserve this supply as hay is one of our main target. Hay making not only conserves this abundance supply, but also ensure regular supply of the nutritious product throughout the  year. 

Legume crops such as berseem, lucern, guara and cowpea are very good for making hay. In addition to mineral and vitamins in dried legume fodder crops, protein is rich in quantity, which is why it is important to dry the fodder used in ration. There is a special way to cut and store different fodder crops. Hay is made only from leguminous crops which are very rich in protein and minerals.  The green fodder crops which are soft, are suitable for making hay, such as berseem, cowpea, lucern and ryegrass. The amount of moisture in green fodder crops is generally 80-90%, but in order to be able to store them, the moisture should be below 15%, which does not harm bacteria and fungus.

 

Hay making is very easy and the product obtained using this technique is very rich in terms of protein, minerals and vitamins. Every farmer can easily adopts this technique. The only thing to keep in mind is proper time of cutting, stages of cutting and size of chaff fodder. For best hay making  one can consider the following points:

Details about green fodder crops used for making hay 

Fodder crop (legume) 

Sowing time 

Seed rate 

Seed inoculation 

Berseem 

September (24-30) to  October (1-7) 

8-10 kg 

Rhizobium 

Lucern 

Mid October 

6-8 kg 

Rhizobium 

Cowpea 

March to mid July 

CL 367= 12 kg 

Cowpea 88= 20-25 kg 

Ryegrass 

September (24-30) to October (1-7) 

4 kg 

The nutritive value (on dry matter basis) of fodders (hay) 

Fodder crop 

Protein (%) 

Total digestible elements (%) 

Berseem 

18.0 

60.5 

Lucern 

22.0 

59.5 

Cowpea 

22.5 

61.2 

Ryegrass 

16.0 

63.5 

Following are  important points for making hay (dry fodder):  

  • The fodder should be dried in the field for about 3 days. 
  • Chop 5-8 cm in size of green fodder crop. 
  • Spread chop fodder on a pucca floor and dry it in the sunlight in a set of 10-15 cm thickness. 
  • Stir the drying forage every 2-3 hours during the day to speed up the drying process under exposure to the sun and the air. 
  • By repeatedly stirring the fodder, it dries in 3-4 days. 
  • When completely dry (usually) after 3-4 days, depending on the frequency of stirring, the intensity of the sun light and air movement of the air, gather the mixture of dried stems and leaves to store or market. When the leaves become cramped, carry the dry fodder up and store it. 
  • If dry fodder is easily broken, the amount of moisture is correct and it is ready to store. Dried fods can be stored in a chap or strawed room. Normally drying green fodder reduces to 15-20% weight and 10-12% quality. 
  • Feeding of 10 kg of dry fodder on the basis of 85% dry matter is equivalent to feeding 35-40 kg green fodder. Feeding of animals with non-leguminous fodder, feeding with leguminous dry fodder, reduces the normal distribution of food. 

Examination for good hay: 

Good hay color remains green and leaves and branches stay connected. This can be assessed by taking the material in the hands, if feels dry, then hay is ready for feed and high nutrients are available in the hay. But in some cases moisture content in the leaves as well as branches is too high then there is need of more drying for producing good quality hay. 

Thus, the green fodder crop can be utilized during the shortage of green fodder. At the time of shortage of green fodder, there is excessive use of feed/ration which increases the cost of milk. Hay making is great step of conserving green fodder which further contributes to the success of dairy business. Hope the article gives an idea to the dairy entrepreneurs to conserve the leguminous crop as hay and utilize the nutritious product during the lean period. This can reduce the cost of milk production and increase  net profit of dairy farming. Hay making also reduces the daily labour cost of harvesting and chopping which is a labour saving device in our commercial/high tech dairy units.


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