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Kiowa County OSU Extension Office

Agriculture

 Travis Tacker
Ag Educator
4-H Youth Development
(580) 726-5643

Following is a chart summary of KSU’s, evaluating the effect of harvesting wheat forage at different stages of maturity on wheat hay quality and quantity.


Boot
Milk
Dough
% DM
17.5
33.4
47.7
Relative DM/Acre
54
91
100
Crude Protein
14.9
11.1
9.8
Relative Protein Yield
80
95-100
100
Digestibility %
64.1
57.7
55.9
Relative Dig. DM/Acre
62
94
100

The chart indicates that maximum digestible dry matter (tonnage) is produced at dough stage of maturity.  If you harvest for maximum quality, (boot stage) you would expect about 62% as much total digestible dry matter production as compared to the dough stage.  Harvesting at the milk stage should produce about 94% as much as compared to the dough stage.

From a protein perspective, as you would expect, the highest quality is in the more immature boot stage of maturity, and the dough stage is considerably lower in protein.  Harvesting at the dough stage would produce the most total protein per acre, with a boot stage harvest producing about 80% as much.    If the producer is interested in quality, even though there is considerably less quantity, be boot stage would be the preferred time to cut.  As usual, it depends on the objective of the producer as to when is the best time for harvest.

Of course, this is probably all academic this year, as the drought and subsequent freeze damage doesn’t allow for much choice regarding when, or if, to cut for hay.  The maturity is, for the most part, out of the hands of the producer.  Much of the wheat is also so short and thin, it may not produce enough tonnage to consider haying as an option.

Another consideration in putting up wheat hay at this time of year is getting it dry enough to bale.  Even though the dry weather is probably responsible for much of our problems, it could certainly start raining just as hay is laid down!  Remember that moldy hay can cause reproductive and other health problems in cattle.  Bulls may have lower semen quality and cows sometimes abort after the fourth month of gestation.

If producers intend to graze out the wheat with spring calving cows, it would be a good practice for them to offer a mineral that is high in calcium and magnesium to minimize the potential for grass tetany.

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