Hay: first or second cutting?

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by BethW, Jun 4, 2008.

  1. BethW

    BethW My kids have hooves Supporter

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    I have the option of first or second cutting orchardgrass hay. Given all other things being equal, which is better? And why?
     
  2. Skykomish

    Skykomish Well-Known Member

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    I think 2nd would be better because the first sometimes has a lot of weeds in it. But don't quote me on that.
     

  3. Scrounger

    Scrounger Well-Known Member

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    To me, it doesn't much matter. Come January the critters will like either just fine. The fisrt MIGHT have more weeds - depends on the weeds. Most of the wild flowers and "flowering weeds will be in the first. Ragweed and others will be in later cuttings.

    The first cutting won't be as stemmy and coarse.

    Around here, "goat hay" is the later cuttings but, like I said, it all tastes good in January.
     
  4. sheepish

    sheepish Well-Known Member Supporter

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    What animals are you feeding? Is it straight orchardgass, or is there legume in it as well?
     
  5. farmmaid

    farmmaid Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Our experience, get it when you can. First cut, never rained on is good if it has not gone to seed. Weather, sickness....may not get a second cutting.
     
  6. BethW

    BethW My kids have hooves Supporter

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    I'm feeding goats. DH says get it while you can, but several folks around here seem to prefer second cuttings.

    I wish there was some sort of "introduction to hay" on the internet. There seems to be so many variables and opinions. The hay I used last year was rated "too good for goats" by one person, "very mediocre" by my vet, and "not bad" by a nearby goat person. Argh!

    Forgot to add the hay I'm looking at is 75/25 orchardgrass/timothy.
     
  7. Joy in Eastern WA

    Joy in Eastern WA Well-Known Member

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    Out here, the second and third cuttings are more desirable, as the protien level increases with each cutting. Third cutting is considered dairy quality as well as the second. Can be too rich for some livestock, though.
    We have thirty acres in alfalfa/orchard grass and the first cutting is typically more stemmy and has a few more weeds, but we get twice the volume as the second cutting. We feed all three cuttings to our livestock, and we save the second and third cuttings for the middle of winter when they all need that extra protein to help them stay warm.
     
  8. marvella

    marvella Well-Known Member

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    goats can eat first cutting just fine. i think they prefer it to all-grass hay.

    fist cutting has weeds in it before they bloom (preferably.) second cutting is all grass because the weeds were cut down the first time. often first cutting can be had cheaper than later cuttings.
     
  9. rambler

    rambler Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Up here hay is just hay. In some regions first cutting is sold a little cheaper, as it is more likely to have weeds in it, and with spring rains it tends to be a little wetter, or a little too ripe because cutting had to be delayed for the rains....

    2nd or 3rd cutting has less chance of these issues on a normal year, but.... Weather can make anything a compimise on hay.

    --->Paul
     
  10. mem

    mem Well-Known Member

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    Generally, second and third cutting hay has more nutritional value. This is usually because it is cut at an earlier stage of maturity. First cutting generally gives higher yields.
     
  11. Michael W. Smith

    Michael W. Smith Well-Known Member

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    I always assumed that first cutting would be better as my thought process told me that the nutrients were there for the first cutting, and with each additional cutting there were less and less nutrients available for the plant.
    Sounds rational, right?

    But, I guess I"m wrong. My understanding is that the first cutting is the "fast growth" (you know how fast your lawn grows first thing in the Spring?) and with it growing so fast, it doesn't have as many nutrients as the slower growing second and third cutting.

    I've heard sometimes that first cutting hay is cheaper, but that doesn't necessarily hold true either. (It all depends on what kind of growing year you have. First cut hay would sell for a premium price if a drought started right after it was taken off the field and stunted the 2nd crop from growing!!!) For goats, I would think first cutting hay would be better as goats usually like browse - and with more weeds in the first cut hay, there are more different plants in it.

    I really don't think it matters. Get it while you can - preferably hay that has not been rained on. Many times, farmers will cut the price quite a bit if you pick it up while the hay bales are still in the field. (Saves them from loading it onto a wagon and taking it to the barn and unloading and stacking it.) However, if your schedule doesn't permit a "drop everything" because the hay bales are sitting in the field" then that won't work.

    Waiting on a 2nd cutting or 3rd cutting can be risky. If the weather doesn't cooperate and give enough moisture, chances are they will only get a 2nd cutting and there won't be a 3rd. First cutting hay is always more plentiful - you get more bales per acre than the slower growing 2nd or 3rd.

    Hope this helps.
     
  12. minnikin1

    minnikin1 Shepherd

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    Why don't you get some of both and see what your goats prefer?

    High nutritional levels may not matter if they don't like it and waste it all over the floor.
     
  13. mtman

    mtman Well-Known Member

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    seed is good has a lot of protien
     
  14. mtman

    mtman Well-Known Member

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    if you fertilize after every cut all cuts has the nutrients
     
  15. wwubben

    wwubben Well-Known Member

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    In northern iowa the second cutting is preferred for several reasons.All cuttings should be good if it was put up dry with no rain.Rain or baling wet are usually what ruins hay.
     
  16. WindowOrMirror

    WindowOrMirror ..where do YOU look? Supporter

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    It is generally the case that later cuttings are better for the reasons that Joy mentioned. If this is grass hay only and won't be used for protein anyhow, then get what you like... but goats need a bit of protein, and I'd select the later cutting myself.

    R
     
  17. sidepasser

    sidepasser Well-Known Member

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    I am buying what I can get..first cutting because the drought conditions here may prevent a later cutting. Last year there was no third cutting and the second cutting was delayed until August..and was not as nice as the first cutting. So I am off tomorrow to go pick up 125 bales out of the field (thank goodness for automatic loaders!) so all I have to do is unload and stack. I generally prefer a second cutting, but having learned over the years, I split my purchases between first, second and third..I buy 500 bales a year on average so the hayman stores my hay nice and dry and I will pick up from the barn on later cuttings if I can't get there to get it out of the field. A hay analysis would be useful if your hayman provides one, I get one and it is very helpful to me to know what the content is. (protein level, etc.). My hayman provides the analysis after each cutting so I know how much feed I need to use, etc. Saves me money overall and is a nice customer service touch.
     
  18. Maura

    Maura Well-Known Member Supporter

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    It depends on when they cut the first cutting. If they wait until it's stemmy, it's not better than second, and second may be better. If the first cut is at that nice peak of fresh growth, before it is stemmy, it's a great cutting.