Hay growers’ first crop of season makes the cut
By Carrie ClickPost Independent StaffThe typical telltale signs that summer is fast approaching are the last day of school, Memorial Day weekend – and in the upper Colorado River Valley, the first cutting of hay. Around the region, haying generally begins at lower elevations like Fruita and DeBeque in mid-spring and travels up the valley to Aspen in early summer.”It’s normal for first cuttings to happen around the first of June around here,” said Dennis Davidson, district conservationist for the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service in Glenwood Springs.
Davidson said most hay in the region is a combination of alfalfa and grass, and the optimal time for a first cutting is when the alfalfa is at one-tenth bloom. That’s causing local hay producers to start to fire up their swathers and churn through hay, falling in rows behind them. Lifetime Peach Valley hay producer Richard Murr said he expects to make his first cutting around June 8. Fortunately, this year’s hay crop looks like it’ll be much better than 2002’s, when growers dealing with little water and severe drought barely got one cutting when normally they might get as many as four. And some didn’t get any at all. Still, hay producers aren’t completely out of the woods yet. Water is scarce except for those with senior water rights.”Without high-priority water rights, a lot of people are going to run out of irrigation water by June 15,” Davidson said. That means that for some, this first cutting might be their last of the year.
Precipitation is also an issue for hay growers. The same rain showers that are welcome when grass and alfalfa is in the ground and growing can spoil it when it comes down on just-cut hay before it’s had a chance to be baled and hauled away. The moisture can turn the crop quickly from high-quality horse hay to less expensive cow hay. “There are a lot of factors that go into producing high-quality hay,” Murr said. Contact Carrie Click: 945-8515, ext. email@example.com
hay is not only for horsesThere’s hay – and then there’s hay. Horses and cattle eat hay, but different kinds of hay.According to Dr. Tom Bohanon of Glenwood Veterinary Clinic, cow hay can often be of good quality. “Just because it’s cow hay doesn’t mean it’s not good hay,” he said. However, because of their hardier digestive systems, cows are able to tolerate hay a lesser-quality hay. They can also digest hay that’s become moldy when it’s been rained on after being cut – or when it hasn’t been put up properly. And sheep and goats can eat even a lower-quality hay, with no adverse effects. Horses, on the other hand, need a purer, cleaner type of feed. Horse hay is usually a mix of alfalfa and grass, a higher-quality feed that their systems can handle. “It’s usually got a higher nutrient value to it,” Bohanon said. Horses, on the other hand, need a purer, cleaner type of feed. Horse hay is usually a mix of alfalfa and grass, a higher-quality feed that their systems can handle. “It’s usually got a higher nutrient value to it,” Bohanon said.
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