Good quality lucerne hay is green, leafy, soft to feel, sweet smelling, and without any mould, dust, weeds, and also other foreign material.
The caliber of hay is reduced by any of the following factors:
- Presence of weeds
- Cutting the lucerne at too late a stage of growth
- Over drying in your windrows, causing leaf shattering, brittle stems, and reduction of green color
- Weather damage, leading to decrease of color and leaching away nutrients because of rain or heavy dews
- Baling uncured or damp hay, causing heating, Raking mustiness, and mouldiness. Raking is needed to accelerate curing with the hay as well as
- Baling or raking on the wrong period of the day, causing leaf and stem shatter The operations of cutting, conditioning, raking, and baling must be done with care to minimize these losses.
Height of cutting
Lucerne is best cut at a height approximately 50 mm above ground level.
Cutting and conditioning
Leaves dry out a lot more than stems. You may use conditioner to fracture the stem can make the stem dry out faster, allowing easier drying of stems.
Thus, conditioning has got the benefits of:
- Reducing leaf loss as a result of over drying of the leaves while expecting the stems to dry
- Reducing the drying period and therefore the chance of weather damage.
Lucerne is often cut and conditioned from the one operation.
The roller pressure on the conditioner needs to be adjusted to separate the stems without even damaging the leaves.
Lucerne hay is typically windrowed by a mower conditioner. Windrowing improves drying time somewhat but is performed that can help raking, also to help reduce exposure of the hay to dew and sunlight and therefore minimize bleaching on the hay.
Conditioned lucerne normally requires 3-4 full drying days to cure in summer and up to seven days for early and late season cuts.
Chemical drying of lucerne hay.
Spraying with potassium carbonate at cutting can help to the curing of lucerne. The substance breaks down the wax-like top of the stem, letting moisture to disappear.
This lowers the chance of weather damage by lessening the time between cutting and baling, especially in the early spring and autumn.
Potassium carbonate is sort of corrosive; therefore machines should be cleaned after use.
minimize the quantity of equipment passes throughout the lucerne during baling and hay carting.
Ideally, raking will move the hay the shortest range possible to avoid extreme leaf shatter. The rake must be adjusted so that the hay will never be contaminated by soil litter.
Raking is necessary to accelerate curing of the hay as well as to lessen the number of machinery passes throughout the lucerne during baling and hay carting.
Ideally, raking will slowly move the hay the shortest range possible to avoid excessive leaf shatter. The rake must be adjusted to be sure the hay will not be contaminated by soil litter
Correct baling of lucerne is a skill developed with practice and experience. Baling carried out within an regular moisture content of between 18 and 20%. Below 15% moisture, the leaves and stems become brittle and severe shattering occurs. At moisture contents greater than 25% the hay might be mouldy and might catch fire because of spontaneous combustion.
The most effective guide to check if lucerne is prepared for baling is often to scratch some stems extracted from the underside of the windrow. The lucerne is cured totally when no moisture shows on scratching the stems. Once this stage is reached, baling should proceed only at a time of the day if the hay has lost its brittleness and leaves do not shatter. That’s why; lucerne is often baled during the night time or daytime.
You should make sure never to bale the hay when it is wet with dew.
Once baled, the hay needs to be extracted from the paddock immediately to prevent loss of quality.
Lucerne hay management during autumn and winter
For optimum yields of lucerne, correct autumn and winter management is vital. Regular cutting of irrigated lucerne hay, even at the optimum stage, will result in some decline of food reserves in the roots in autumn.
Grazing during autumn and early winter isn’t suitable lucerne that’s been regularly irrigated and cut through the summer. A rest period after the last cut of eight to 10 weeks allows lucerne root reserves to build up again and will result in better hay yields over the next summer.