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The Kuhn Family Farm & Old Country Store

So ya wanna make hay, Huh?

Who's gonna want to buy your hay?  Why should they?

In my opinion, Alfalfa is the best way to go in the Northeast region of the Country if your looking to sell your hay or graze your animals.  

Grazing Alfalfa will need a companion crop to avoid bloat, especially in Horses.
But is there enough of a market to sustain a business?
Who are you going to be selling to?
- Dairies
- Cattle feedlots
- Sheep operations
- Goat or Alpacca Farms
Each has their own special needs when it comes to what they'll feed their livestock.
Find you niche market/customers and do your homework.
- Soil fertility (pH should be 6.5 - 7.0)
- Fertilizer needed? (lime, phosphorus, potassium, calcium)
- Correct equipment for seed bed preparation
Planting Guide
On your standard "dryland" or "favorable dryland" with limited irrigation you'll need anywhere from 10-15 lbs. of Alfalfa Seed/Acre.
Direct seeding = 15-18 lbs.

With a single companion crop = 12-15 lbs. (such as clover)

With FULL Irrigation = 18-20 lbs.

** We use 6-8/lbs. in our pasture mix (which equates to approx. 15% of the total seed mix),  which also includes Orchard grass, Red & White Clover & Timothy.  However as the season continues and you mow these fields or pastures for winter hay stockpiles, you’ll generally only see Timothy in your 1st & 2nd cutting.


Stand Age & Plants per Sq. Foot
Alfalfa should be re-evaluated each year to measure deterioration.
Stands less than the levels shown below probably justify a new seeding.
On the seeding year there should be 20-30 plants/stands per sq. ft.
Second year = 12-20
Third year = 8-12
And on the fourth and subsequent years = 6-8

After plowing, we use a 10' Roller/Harrow
It break's up the clumps/furrows/hard-pan to smooth out your seedbed for even "drop-seeding"

You'll reap ($$$) what you sow!
Don't buy cheap seed!  You'll get cheap hay!
The old saying..."You'll get what you pay for", is very true when it comes to seed,
The Kuhn Family Farm
only uses
"DMX-H" Grass Mix's
(located in Jersey Shore, PA)

Planting recommendations:

The Alfalfa (Prolific), has been "inoculated", which provides benificial living, nitrogen-fixing bacteria to the seed.  With this type of seed treatment, some planting adjustments may be required.   To obtain your desired seeding rate, it is recommended that you increase your manufacturer's suggested drill setting.  The recommendation does not imply that more seed is needed. Rather, it infers that you should recalibrate your equipment to adjust for seed coatings.

You don't need fancy/Expensive seeding equipment.
We bought this 17 row dbl. disc planter for $500, and it works for everything from corn to hay seed

Alfalfa-Grass Mixes Reduce Leafhopper Damage
Planting a cool-season grass with DOEBLER'S leafhopper-resistant PROLIFIC alfalfa (Not a GMO), will reduce leafhopper damage and increase yield compared to having no grass in the mix. According to a recent study conducted in New York and Pennsylvania, adding a grass to potato leafhopper-resistant alfalfa offered limited benefits in addition to those already provided by the resistant alfalfa. The research, funded by Northeast Integrated Pest Management, looked at potato leafhopper-resistant alfalfa varieties spring-seeded with orchardgrass, tall fescue or timothy. During the seeding year, there were limited differences between grass species.

Source: Marvin Hall, Penn State Field Crop News

Seeding rate:
Seeding ratescan range from 5-30+ pounds per acre depending on your location.
Method of seeding, seedbed prep., soil type & fertility, and purpose of seeding are factors which determine proper seeding rate.
There approx. 220,000 alfalfa seeds per pound.   Each pound of seed planted per acre provides about 5 seeds per square foot.   The number of seedlings surviving the first year of planting is likely to be about 10-50% due to competition, disease, insects, winter injury and other causes.
When no companion crop is used (red & white clover), it is important to have 20-30 plants per square foot during the seeding year for maximum yields and for protection against weed competition.
Plant 12-25 pounds of seed per acre to attain this goal.

Time to plant?

Most farmers will plant in late summer-early fall.  Some plant in early spring.If planting in late summer like we do,  make sure you seed at least 6 weeks prior to a hard frost so seedlings can develop adequately to withstand winter conditions.

Even if your seedlings survive the winter when not given the proper establishment time, their spring growth is likely to be poor, resulting in low yields and severe weed infestation.

Your best bet is to prepare the seedbed in mid-summer, and than seed when soil moisture is available.

Over fertilizing not only can be costly but also may contribute to pollution of surface water supplies. In an ongoing pasture liming and fertilizing program, retest every 4 to 5 years to determine wheather your fertilization strategy is on track.

Manure Can Boost Alfalfa Yields
Applying as much as 12,000 gallons of liquid manure or 50 tons of dry manure per acre before planting alfalfa can boost yield more than commercial fertilizers at the same nutrient levels, according to Bruce Anderson, University of Nebraska extension forage specialist.

The nitrogen in the manure probably won't be utilized. But manure is also rich in phosphorus, potassium, sulfur and many micronutrients that alfalfa needs in large quantities, Anderson points out. Yield also increases on both low- and high-fertility soils with manure, while only low-fertility soils respond to commercial fertilizer. The increases may be due to other factors, such as improved soil tilth, increased soil microbial activity, micronutrients and early nitrogen availability, he says.

Growers who plant a companion crop like oats, to be harvested for grain, should not apply a heavy level of manure before seeding alfalfa because the companion crop can lodge and smother alfalfa. If the companion crop is cut early for hay or silage, however, it should be fine.

Soil and manure tests can determine how much manure to apply. Use tillage to mix manure well into the soil, and prepare a firm seedbed so new alfalfa seedlings will emerge rapidly and vigorously.

Plan your weed-control program carefully, since manure can stimulate weed seedlings. Proper timing of seeding, firm seedbeds and herbicides or clipping can control weed pressure, according to Anderson.

Source: Nebraska Crop Watch Newsletter.

Watch the weather!
Weather plays a very important role in the haymaking proccess.
You'll want to make sure you have a good 3-5 day's of sunny, dry, and slightly breezy weather to make hay.
Of course the "perfect" weather rarely ever happens and you have to expect to get rushed or rained on once in awhile.  Pain can ruin your hay once cut.  Mostly after it has begun to dry.  The longer it's been laying in windrows and it get's rained on the worst of your going to be.
There are always way's to cope with rained on hay.  There are multiple "additives" that can be introduced into the hay while bailing it that will help with hay that is bailed to soon due to an expected storm.  That in itself will cause you to incure additional cost's, not to mention the cost of the add on equipment to you baler to spray the product.
If it rains on your "fresh" cut hay it won't damage the too much.  It will lose some nutritional quality, but the real quality loss occurs after the dry-down proccess has had a time to begin. 
Ex. If you cut at 6pm and it rains that evening, you can wait until it dries and the following day run a hay tedder through it to fluff it up and spread it out.  If it rains 12 - 24 hours after cutting/mowing and the hay has had time to dry prior to the rain, you'll loose alot of forage quality and than when you rake and or bale you'll loose most of the leaves (on legumes like alfalfa), which is where most of the nutritional quality is found.
Some farmers will hand spread a special salt additive on each layer of hay as it's being thrown' up in the barn's mow, to prevent over heating of the hay which can cause a devistating fire.

Monitor Wet Hay For Heating Problems
Hay baled too wet can heat and lose quality. At very high temperatures, it can spontaneously combust.

"A rule of thumb is to check baled hay four or five days after baling for its initial temperature rise level," says South Dakota State University (SDSU) Extension forage specialist Peter Jeranyama.

He shares some general guidelines provided by Iowa State University Extension forage agronomist Steve Barnhart on how to monitor the temperature of stored hay that was baled a little wet.

  • Temperatures up to 120F are caused by normal respiration by fungi and bacteria. The process is referred to as normal sweating during hay curing. This temperature rise occurs when hay is baled at 15-20% moisture. These temperatures generally don't cause serious concerns in forage quality loss. However, mold may develop.
  • Temps of 110-150F are caused by fungi able to grow at this range. Chemical reactions during heating will denature some protein and cause some fiber to be less digestible.
  • Temps of 135-160F are caused by fungi respiration. At 150F, check temperature every day. At temperatures above 160F, chemical reactions dominate the heating process. If the temperature continues to rise, check temperature every four hours. At this stage, the situation may become dangerous.
  • At temps of 175F, continue to check the temperature every few hours and notify your local fire department. Don't move the hay without fire department assistance.
  • At temps of 195F or more, spontaneous combustion is possible. Ask your fire department to assist you.
-- Marianne Stein, SDSU AgBio Communications

Is it ready?
If your growing/selling Alfalfa, there are two times that you can cut/mow your product.
Most producers will cut Alfalfa when it is mature.  The plant will produce small purple/pink flowers.  Best time to mow is when they are just starting to appear.   If you wait, the stems will become "stalky" and tough.  The leaves will have a greater chance of falling off during the conditioning phase (rolling/crimping of the plant to assist with drying).
This is also the point where the plant will dry in the best time.  Cut before the plant reaches maturity and it won't dry as quickly.  It may also stunt/slow re-growth and hamper your ability to get 3, 4 or maybe even 5 cutting in 1 season.  
We squeezed in 5 cuttings in 2002, simply due to the drought (No rain).  The last cutting was done in mid-November.  It took 6 day's to dry enough to be baled due to the short day's and cool nights of fall.  And because we cut earlier than normal in the spring.
Normally we can get the first cutting in the barn by late Memorial Day. 

If you need more info. contact us at:

or check out

"the quest for quality hay"

located at:



Organic Hay Market Will Increase, Grower Says
"If you haven't had a caller asking you for organic hay yet, you soon will," Lou Anderson, president of S&L Commodities, Fairfield, ID, told hay growers at the recent Midwest Hay Business Conference.

"I get calls every week from someone looking for organic hay in our area. I haven't known where any is for about three months and that's kind of a cool deal. What I'm telling you is, there is a market and it's going to get bigger," Anderson said.

Anderson buys organic hay -- hay produced without conventional chemicals and fertilizers for a minimum of three years -- from around 70 growers primarily in Idaho, Utah and Colorado. He also grows organic and non-organic alfalfa on about 4,000 acres of his own. Before going organic, Anderson said, growers should consider several factors:

  1. Packaging. "Look at how (organic) hay needs to be packaged. Small square bales, if they're made of organic hay, are marketable," Anderson said. "I'll bet you, in some of the areas you guys are in, there are small organic dairies starting up or converting over. A lot of those guys want small bales. I could sell a lot of organic hay in small bales, even where we are. And we're in an area where the dairies are giants, and the organic dairies are pretty big, too."

    Don't forget the horse industry when considering the organic market and how you may package your product, he said. "You're not going to produce organic milk or meat from a horse, but a lot of people feel like, because it's organic, it's better for their horses. If people feed their children organic products because they feel it's healthier for them, they're going to feed their horses organic products. I'm not saying that's the case right now; I'm saying that's the thought process."
  2. Quality. "If you're going to grow organic hay and are under the perception that, because it's organic, it doesn't have to be good quality, then you're going to be disappointed," Anderson warned. There should be a good market for organic hay that tests in the 150-RFV range, he added.
  3. Challenges. Growing good-quality hay without conventional pesticides takes a lot of thinking ahead, Anderson said. "You have a method of solving those challenges now. If you couldn't do it the way you do by conventional methods, how would you solve them? If you have a weed problem, how are you going to handle it?"

    Composting and using manure for fertilizer, selecting resistant varieties and using microbial treatments help reduce fertility and pest problems. "There is a lot of research now that wasn't because organic wasn't mainstream enough. Things are coming that will help solve challenges we have right now in soil fertility," he predicted.
Commitment. Anderson said growers committed to growing organic products are successful. "You can make just about anything work if you try."