Problems With Baling Hay Grazer

Hay grazer is popular for its high sugar content and palatability.
Hay grazer is popular for its high sugar content and palatability. (Image: Jupiterimages/ Images)

Hay grazer is a catch-all term for several different hybrid varieties of sudangrass and sorghum. Unlike most hay varieties, hay grazer is an annual crop, meaning it must be replanted every year. A warm season grass, it thrives in hot conditions and becomes unproductive during the fall, winter and spring when temperatures are low.


The most serious problem with baling hay grazer is potentially lethal toxicity to livestock. Like other warm season grasses, hay grazer can store nitrates inside the plant tissues during unsuitable growing conditions like drought. Those nitrate levels persist after the grass is cured and baled for hay, and can kill the animals that eat it if the concentration is high enough. When baling hay grazer, it is vital to test the nitrate levels of the hay before feeding it.


Ideally, hay grazer should be cut and baled at the boot stage, when the seed head is rising up through the center of the stem, but is not yet visible. Baling the forage after this point may reduce the crude protein levels, which are only about 11 to 13 percent at the best of times, by as much as 5 percent. If it is not possible to bale at the boot stage, consider using a hay grazer variety labeled BMR, or brown mid-rib. These varieties are selected for better digestibility and taste, and are more tolerant of mature cutting.

Moisture Level

Baling hay grazer, or any forage, while the moisture content is too high results in significant losses of both dry matter content and nutritional value. Putting the hay up when the moisture levels exceed 22 percent is an invitation to excessive heating inside the bale as microorganisms decompose the organic matter, and may even cause spontaneous combustion in severe cases. Spontaneous combustion inside a building can cause expensive structural damage and loss of animal or human life.


Mold is another side effect of improper baling or storage with high moisture levels. Mold in a bale reduces palatability, sometimes to the extent of complete refusal of the livestock to consume the tainted hay. Mycotoxin-producing molds can produce serious health effects in livestock, including abortion and neurological problems. Using crimping or crushing equipment before baling speeds drying and lowers the chances of bales becoming moldy after storage.

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