Hicks, C.1; Evitts, J.2
1Extension Agent III & County Director, University of Tennessee Extension, Carthage, TN, 37030
2Extension Agent III & County Director, University of Tennessee Extension, Hartsville, TN, 37074


“You Can’t Trust the Weatherman: Educating Forage Producers on the Basics of Haylage Production”

Hicks, C.¹; Evitts, J.²

¹ Extension Agent & County Director, University of Tennessee Extension, Smith County

² Extension Agent & County Director, University of Tennessee Extension, Trousdale County


Extension education in forage production has long focused on encouraging producers to harvest hay early in the growing season in order to have a product that has acceptable levels of protein and energy to meet the nutritional requirements of livestock. The late-boot stage that is considered the optimum balance between yield and quality of most cool-season grasses, occurs in the first two weeks of May in Tennessee. Weather conditions in May often make it difficult to find a 5-day window that is generally needed to cure, bale, and store hay using traditional harvest methods. The dilemma forage growers face each spring is does one cut the hay when it needs to be cut to have good quality even if there is rain in the forecast, or do they wait until the forecast is clear and cut later, though doing so means quality will be reduced?

                Haylage involves baling hay at 40-60% moisture and then wrapping it in plastic. This creates an anaerobic environment which allows the forage to ferment. Since haylage is baled at a higher moisture, it doesn’t need nearly as much time to dry down. Typically, the entire process from cutting to wrapping is less than 48 hours. This means producers can harvest forage when it is at the right quality, not when the extended forecast is perfect.

                Over a 3-year period from 2017-2019, a variety of educational efforts were designed to teach forage producers the process, advantages, challenges, and economics regarding haylage production. This included two field days, multiple production meetings, and mass media efforts. We estimate that haylage production increased by at least 100% following those efforts and that last year approximately 30,000 rolls of haylage were produced in Smith & Trousdale County.



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