Hay can be defined as the conversion of green forage into dry form without affecting quality of original material. It is the most common, easy and safe method of preserving the excess green fodder (grasses) for long time.
The quality of hay largely depends on the (a) species (b) the stage of harvesting, and (c) freedom from moulds and bacteria.
Steps for making hay
Good quality hay is prepared by adopting the following procedure:
• Quality of hay mainly depends on the stage of harvest: The fodder crops namely cowpea, velvet bean, guar, moth bean, jowar, bajra, teosinte and oats should be cut at flowering stage for hay making.
• Pasture and cultivated grasses are cut at 50% flowering or slightly earlier to prevent the lignifications of cellulose, losses of protein and palatability.
• Lucerne and Berseem are cut for hay making at 30–40 days interval.
• The fodder crop should not be harvested immediately after irrigation. They should be harvested in the afternoon and before irrigation.
• Though the fodder species may be dried as such in the field itself, the best quality hay is made by chaffing into small pieces by hand driven machine or with a power drivers chaff. Either chaffed or unchaffed material is spread evenly in layers and is turned 2–3 times daily. In the evening, half dried material is racked and collected or heaped in the form of cone so as to prevent exposure of the material to dew fall at night. On the second day, the material is again spread evenly after the dew has disappeared. The material is turned frequently depending on the climatic conditions. During summer, the hay of lucerne, cowpea, berseem etc., may preferably be made in shade so that bleaching action may be reduced to the minimum.
• The hay made by adopting above steps and possessing about 15% moisture is finally transported to the hay-barn. It should retain green colour, good aroma and flavour.
• It should be preferably stored at low temperature and humidity so as to prevent the losses owing to oxidations of carbohydrates. For rainy seasons, hay curing sheds are recommended.
• In order to minimize the space for storage and for effective long term storage, the hay is turned into bales of suitable sizes with manually operated or power driven hay-bales. B. Losses of fodder quality
• Shattering of leaves (mostly in legumes)
• Fermentation—Normal loss is about 6% of dry matter
• Oxidation leads to loss of carotenes
• Leaching—Loss of protein, N free extract minerals and vitamins. Thereby crude protein content increases and digestibility decreases.
Methods of haymaking
(i) Hay curing structures: In some countries, haymaking is done in hay barns, which are specially designed structures in which hot air is circulated for drying the material quickly.
However, in India, the most prevalent systems are as follows:
(ii) Fence method: In this method, fodders are cut and spread evenly and thinly over the fences of the paddocks or fields or specially erected fences. This method helps to dry the material quickly and turning of the material after every 2 or 3 hours daily can be avoided.
(iii) Tripod method: In this system, tripods of convenient heights are erected by using local materials e.g., wood or galvanized iron poles. In between these poles, horizontal supports are erected to increase the carrying capacity. Unchapped fodders are dried in the manner described under the fence method.
(iv) Gable shaped structure: The gable shaped structures is made by using galvanized woven-wire fencing material of desired width and angle iron poles. The fencing material is fixed in such a way as to provide a slopping support and good ventilation for quick drying. This system also permits the excessive shedding of leafy material with less handling unlike the ordinary ground method. The structure can be made economical further by using netted ropes of medium diameter and wooden poles.
(v) Hay curing shades: Hay curing shades of convenient size of 18 m × 9 m × 3 m with a slanting rod supported by pillars are constructed with corrugated asbestos. Chain like fencing of 5 cm × 5 cm mesh and 1–1.2 m in width is arranged length wise in a 4 or 5 tier system. These types of sheds are good for making hay during the monsoon and summer. The cost is further reduced by thatching the roof and by using wooden poles for support.
(vi) Ground method: In this method, the chaffed or unchaffed material is thinly and evenly spread over a pucca floor so as to prevent soiling. The material is turned 2 or 3 times daily till it dries completely.
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