Hay Making

Pashu Sandesh, 30 Sep 2019

Dr Nethee Deori1, Dr Madhuri S. Lahamge2 and Dr Brijesh Nanda3


Haymaking is a process of turning green, perishable forage into a product that can be safely stored and easily transported without danger of spoilage while keeping nutrient loss to a minimum. This involves reducing its moisture content by drying the forage in the sun. The process of drying the green crop without significant change in aroma, flavour and nutritive quality of forage is called “curing”. This involves reducing the moisture content of green forages so that they can be stored without spoilage or further nutrient loss.

Feeding hay to livestock helps reduce the amount of concentrate feeding, and thereby, the cost of feeding. The low moisture content of hay considerably reduces cost. Hay can be fed to sheep and goats, both of which are selective feeders. This means that, if enough hay can be made, then the sheep and goats can be fed excess hay.

Suitable crops for making hay

  • Oats
  • Lucerne
  • Maize
  • Sorghum
  • Napier grass

The basic method of haymaking

  • Forage is cut before it is fully mature to maximize its nutritive value. Although cutting hay early will result in lower total volume, the increase in nutritive value will more than compensate for reduced yields.
  • Leaves are more nutritious than the stems, and so when cutting forage, it is important that it is cut with as much leaf and as little stem as possible.
  • Do not leave cut forage to dry in a moist environment, as this will encourage the growth of moulds. These can be extremely harmful to livestock and to people handling it.
  • The cut forage is laid out in the sun in as thin a layer as possible, and raked a few times and turned regularly to hasten to dry.
  • The drying process may take between 2 to 3 days.
  • Hay should not be over dried as it may start to ferment and also become a fire hazard.

Storage of hay

  • Hay must be stored in a dry environment
  • Hay can be baled and stored under cover or can also be stored by creating haystacks. These may be created in a field near the source, or close to where the hay will be required later in the year. Stacks may be covered by plastic sheets to keep out rain and prevent from exposure to excessive sun. The surface layer of a stack may also be thatched, in the same manner as the thatched roof to a house.
  • Make a box with dimensions 40×50×75 cm.
  • Put 2 lengths of sisal rope in the box as shown
  • Put the hay into the box and press it down tightly by jumping on it.
  • Tie the box securely
  • Remove the bale and stack

Problems with haymaking

  • If hay is dried in a moist environment, for example during heavy rains season, mould may grow on the hay. These moulds can be extremely toxic to animals as well as the people handling it.
  • In such cases, it is advisable to wait till the end of the rainy season before cutting the forage. This may lead to lower nutritional content in the hay, but this is better than toxic hay. The resultant may be supplemented with other feeds.
  • On the other hand, drying the hay too fast may lead to shattering of the delicate parts of the plant, causing a subsequent loss of nutrients.
  • To avoid this, drying can be done in barns by passing hot air through the forage. Although artificial drying produces hay of good quality, it is expensive, but can be attempted on a community basis in areas where there are a need and the necessary facilities.

    Dr Nethee Deori1, Dr Madhuri S. Lahamge2 and Dr Brijesh Nanda3

    1. Assistant Professor, Department of Livestock Production Management, Khalsa College of Veterinary & Animal Sciences, Amritsar
    2. Assistant Professor, Department of   Veterinary Clinical Complex, Apollo College of Veterinary Medicine, Jaipur (Rajasthan)
    3. Assistant Professor, Department of Livestock Production Management, Apollo College of Veterinary Medicine, Jaipur (Rajasthan)