What is Hay?
1)Hay is a green dry, leafy, clean, soft, good smelling, digestible and nutritious fodder with water content of less than 18%.
2)The dry grass which is cut and dried at the ‘green and flowering stage’ in such a way that its nutrients are not lost, it remains soft, its color remains green and it does not rot and animals eat it with gusto, is called Hay.
Just as silage is used in the shortage of green fodder, similarly “hay” is also fed to the animals in place of dry fodder like straw. Hay is different from straw, because the straw is obtained from the crop which is harvested after the seed formation and ripening while for making Hay, crop is harvested at the flowering stage. That is why “hay” is more nutritious than straw, because essential elements are stored in the crop producing hay, whereas these elements in straw are used to make seeds.
The grasses that make Hay, should not contain useless grass and weeds. Some of the prerequisites for making a good quality Hey are as follows.
- Hay making crops should be leafy as the edible value of the leaves is higher than other parts of the plant. The leaves are rich in protein, vitamins and minerals. If these leaves are lost while making hay, the feeding value of hay decreases.
- Crops that are harvested after seed formation begins, in them nutrients are spent in the formation of seeds, so such crops which are harvested late do not produce good quality Hay.
- The leaves of the crop should have a greater green color at the time of harvesting which indicates a higher amount of carotene, as animals make vitamin A from the carotene in their liver.
- The crop should be soft and the stem should be of medium size and tasty.
- The grasses forming Hay should be free from rot and mildew.
- There should be no weeds and crop residues in the grass.
- The grasses should be such that after the formation of “hay”, they retain the original aroma of the crops.
Crop harvesting for Hay making
It is essential that “Hay” should not be left open in the sunlight or rain. The crops from which ‘Hay’ is to be made should be harvested at such time when the crop starts flowering because at this time the crops are rich in digestive carbohydrates, carotene, vitamins and mineral salts.
Crops should not be harvested when the sky is cloudy and there is more moisture in the atmosphere. After harvesting the crops, they should be spread evenly in the field and left to dry.
Curing of Hay or Hay making process
This is the process in which the green char is dried so much that the moisture remains in them so low that the respiration of the plant cells stops and the bacterial and chemical action is stopped and its aroma, nutritional value is also not reduced.
While making Hay, that is, while drying the crops, the components found in the grass or plants should not be destroyed. Leaves should not fall apart while harvesting the crop and minimum moisture should be kept in the leaves while drying so that hay can be stored for a longer time. The crops from which hay is made are dried by the following methods.
In this method, three wooden sticks are made by making a triangular stand and tying them, this frame or structure is firmly fixed on the ground. Bamboo or its splints are also tied on all three sides of these wooden poles leaving some space from top to bottom, the crops that make Hay are dried on these.
In lowland areas or where the land is often wet or where rainfall is high, this method is used to dry the Hay crops. This is the best method of drying fodder in adverse weather.
Drying on the ground method
After harvesting the crop, spread it in 25-30 cm thick folds or small heaps in the field and dry it in the sunlight. If the sun is not very strong, then the fodder is dried in a relatively thin layer. When most of the leaves of the plants have dried and become crisp, then the crop is collected and made into small heaps.
When the leaves of the plants on top of the smaller heaps dry up, the heaps should be turned over. The fodder heap should be kept loose so that air can pass through them. Do the work of overturning the heaps of fodder in the morning of the next day so that the leaves of the plants do not break.
When all the fodder is completely dry, collect the prepared “Hay” and store it in the cattle pen.
Drying on the wall of farm
The fodder crops are dried by spreading on the boundary wall of the dairy farm. While drying the fodder crop, it should be kept in reverse so that the crop dries well.
Drying the fodder crops on the farm fence
The “hay” crops such as berseem, alfa-alfa or oats are spread in very thick layers on the fence of the farm and dried.
Artificial drying of crops
In this method, the crops are cut into pieces and kept in electric hot air furnaces and hot air is entered in them. Drying by this method, the nutritional value of plants is also not destroyed. This method is best in bad weather conditions.
Types of Hay
On the basis of the crops used to make hay, Hay are of the following types.
This type of Hay is made from leguminous (podded) crops such as berseem, lucerne (alfa-alfa), peas and cowpea etc. The following properties are found in “Hay” made from these crops.
- The amount of digestive elements in it is more than that made from other grasses.
- It is high in digestible protein.
- A properly prepared “Hay” from these grasses is rich in Vitamin A and Vitamin D and E are also found in abundance.
- In this type of Hay, mineral salts such as calcium is high and phosphorus is also found in small amounts.
- This types of Hay is more delicious and is also digestible and enhances digestion power and also increases the quantity of milk in milch animals.
- Growing leguminous “hay” crops requires less manure and these crops also prevent soil erosion.
The Non-Legume Hay is made from grasses and sorghum, which is not a good food for dairy farm animals. Because it is less tasty and contains less amount of protein, vitamins and minerals than legume hay. But the loss of nutrients is minimal in making Non-Legume Hay. They are relatively low in protein but high in carbohydrates.
“Hay” is also made from grain crops, such as oats, millet, barley, wheat etc. A good Hay can be prepared from these crops when the grains in the hair of these crops are in milky stage. The “hay” made in this way is equivalent to the hay made from grasses. It is low in protein and minerals but high in carbohydrates.
Losses of Nutrients in Hay making
While making Hay in the field, some nutrients are definitely lost from the plants. But if the circumstances are favorable then this loss is not much. Some elements are also lost in drying green grasses at normal temperature, due to which the nutritional value of such Hay decreases.
If Hay is prepared without fermentation, the vitamin content remains high. The loss of nutrients when making Hay is as follows-
- Loss due to fall of leaves- In leguminous crops, there is more loss due to the fall of leaves because the nutrients are found in more quantity in the leaves. Due to which the nutritional value of hay also decreases. To prevent this loss, care should be taken that the crops should not be dried too much and the Hay should not be moved from one place to another in the strong sunlight.
- Loss of Vitamins- While drying the crops that make Hay, the green matter of the plants (chlorophyll), which has high amount of carotene, is destroyed. And animals manufacture ‘vitamin A’ from carotene in their liver. Thus the destruction of carotene leads to a deficiency of vitamin A in Hay.
- Loss by Fermentation- At the time of fermentation, there is more loss of organic matter such as starch and carbohydrates present in Hay. By fermentation these substances are oxidized to form carbon-dioxide and water, in which there is a large loss of energy.
- Loss by Leaching- When the “hay” is almost ready in the field, if it rains heavily, many nutrients are lost in the water due to Leaching. This type of loss is more when “Hay” is prepared in the field.
Precautions in Storage and Hay making
As mentioned earlier, due to drying and turning over of the crop, the leaves of the plants often fall, due to which there is loss of nutrients. Therefore, the crop should not be dried in very strong sunlight and should be dried in the shade and should avoid overturning in strong sunlight. Strong sunlight destroys the green color of plants, it also leads to loss of nutrients.
Therefore, the crop should be dried keeping the above things in mind. The Hay should have 18% moisture at the time of storage. On excessive drying, there is a loss of protein and carotene and on less drying, rotting occurs in it.
Benefits of Hay
There are following benefits of Hay-
- Hay can be prepared quicker and easier than silage.
- Among dry fodder, it is best as it has high nutrient content.
- In the shortage of fodder, it can be conveniently fed to animals.
- The cost of making Hay is less.
Disadvantages of Hay
- Hay is less digestible and nutritious than silage.
- It is less tasty than silage.
- Nutrient loss is more in making Hay than making silage.
- There is a high risk of catching fire in Hay.
- It is difficult to making Hay in bad weather condition.
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