Haymaking: Method of fodder preservation.

Dear readers, in previous articles we described some aspects of a forage conservation method known as ensilage. This method can be adequately implemented in ecosystems with high relative humidity because it does not influence the fermentation process, unlike the conservation method we will talk about today, which consists of dehydrating the forage material to take advantage of the dry matter it contains, and we will now describe in detail the processes involved in Haymaking.

AGROTECNIA design by @amestyj with own images.

Let us begin by pointing out the objectives of fodder conservation

- First, to take advantage of the forage surplus of the agricultural systems that exist in some periods to be used in critical periods when there is not enough forage to feed the animals.

- To conserve forage of excellent nutritional quality, before it suffers some changes that affect its quality.

- To ensure that the fodder used is conserved for long periods of time.

- To achieve in critical periods a balance between the use of concentrated feed and the use of conserved fodder to cover the nutritional needs of the animals.

For example, in areas with high relative humidity it is advisable to implement conservation methods such as silage, where humidity will not influence the process. The opposite is the case with the method of Haymaking conservation , where the aim is to dehydrate the forage; therefore, high humidity can cause loss of the preserved material with the presence of mold, since the hay bales must be kept in dry places.

After having described some important aspects of the conservation methods, let's focus on the process of haymaking. Haymaking can be defined as a process of dehydration of forages where the surplus of forages is generally conserved during rainy seasons in order to supply them to the animals during drought periods when the availability of pastures is reduced.

AGROTECNIA design by @amestyj with own images.

In this sense, some researchers, such as Esperance (2005), point out that fresh pastures contain a percentage of moisture that varies between 70 and 80% and when moisture is reduced to values between 15 and 25% through the drying process, it can be easily preserved without deterioration as long as it is protected from precipitation or any humidity factor. Implementing this type of alternative requires a rapid decrease in humidity to avoid any fermentation process that could reduce the nutrients in the forage.

On the other hand, to obtain an excellent quality hay, the phenological stage of the pasture must be taken into account, since mature plants can affect the nutritional quality of the pasture, since the cell walls increase and with it the cellulose and lignin content, which makes digestibility and adequate protein percentages more difficult. It is necessary to emphasize that this method does not improve the quality of the forage, so it is important that it has an excellent nutritional quality at the time of preservation.

AGROTECNIA design by @amestyj with own images.

To show how a good hay is made, we will explain how natural haymaking is done, it is called natural because it is dehydrated by the action of the sun, that is to say, the grass that is to be preserved is cut and left spread on the surface to lose water with the action of the sun. This process depends on the climatic conditions, the days with a strong sun are the ideal ones, it is also recommended to carry out the cutting work in the morning hours after the dew disappears, avoiding an excess of water and taking advantage of the sun during the whole day.

AGROTECNIA design by @amestyj with own images.

Some researchers mention that cutting the grass at midday or in the afternoon is not the most advisable even if the grass contains less water, since they have observed in some trials that it takes longer for the hay to be completely finished. Another aspect that should be considered is that when the upper part of the cut grass is observed to be a little dry, it should be turned over and spread out so that it can dry homogeneously and at night the pasture can be grouped together to prevent it from absorbing too much humidity. This process should be carried out for several days until the objective is reached. When the pasture reaches an approximate moisture content of 20%, the forage can be collected for storage, depending on the equipment available, this process can be done manually or in bulk or packed by specialized machinery.

AGROTECNIA design by @amestyj with own images.

Final considerations
Dear readers, this is a process as mentioned above that depends on climatic factors, in the area where I live, the climate is humid tropical therefore haymaking is little used considering that the relative humidity is high as well as rainfall, in the same way some producers have implemented it with the use of machinery that allows them to perform the process in a faster way. During haymaking, it must be ensured that nutrients are not lost and that leaf loss is kept to a minimum.

Bibliographic references
  • Esperance, M. (2005). Haymaking. Indio Hatuey Pasture and Forage Experimental Station.

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