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Fertilizer and Hay Flavor

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#1 VA Haymaker

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Posted 21 February 2021 - 06:24 AM

Sometimes you hear of a customer who’s horse won’t eat the hay and others will say their horse eats it all - no waste. Knock on wood, our hay has been on the good taste and no waste side of the spectrum.

We heavily fertilize to maximize our yield, a lot of folks around us either fertilize very little or not at all.

Question is - does ample fertilize make for good flavored, tasty hay? I’m thinking it must in that a healthy plant probably tastes better than one starving, just like corn fed beef surly would taste better than one who’s ribs are showing due to low inputs?

Just curious your hay experience - fertilizer vs flavor.


#2 TJ Hendren

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Posted 21 February 2021 - 09:08 AM

I've always heard that DAP and Potassium Chloride vs MAP and Potassium Sulfate had a flavor difference but can't say for sure as i can't get the latter two around here. I do know that it is recommended to put the 0-0-60 down in the fall.  I can tell you that the cattle will eat better on hay fertilized with litter vs commercial from observing my own stock.

#3 Trillium Farm

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Posted 21 February 2021 - 09:18 AM

Are you using a hay drying agent?

Some horses do not like it especially propionic acid, horses smell the hay 1st, if they get it into their mouth generally they eat it, most refusals occur at the smelling stage, so it may not be taste, but scent/smell.

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Posted 22 February 2021 - 10:25 AM

Odor is critical. Good luck getting nice smelling dry hay without good amount of sunshine on the day you bale. Cousin told me this year's ago and I scoffed. I was wrong.

Fertilized hay will have a better feed test analysis and livestock will perform better feeding on it but just like humans there are some oddballs out there that leave nice feed in the rack and eat whatever your bedding them with.

#5 slowzuki


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Posted 22 February 2021 - 11:45 AM

Dropped some rather poor hay off for some folks this weekend.  They have been feeding high end compressed hay imported from the west.  She cut open one of my bales and tossed in a couple of flakes, horses tore into it like they hadn't been fed in a week.  I thought they would have turned up their nose.  I've never seen any rhyme or reason to it.

#6 BWfarms


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Posted 22 February 2021 - 11:35 PM

I can tell which farms/fields certain bales come from just by smell. Second by the barns they are located in ;) There is truth to fertilizer affecting smell and palatability of the hay. The fields on the main place all have super super sweet smelling hay, the fertility of this soil is excellent with plenty of organic matter mixed in with the topsoil, manure.

These next two fields do not have organic matter other than bush hogging the last cut every other year. I have a tract that I use to lease (just sold last month) that gave off great smelling hay but produced lower tonnage as I was not committing inputs to it the smell began to not be as sweet. Kitty corner to the southwest I have a field that produced better tonnage but was more sharp and bitter smelling. Last two years I dumped potassium and phosphorus on this field and have noticed a significant change in smell. I was going to add lime but we’ve been so wet so it will be this year hopefully.

The grass types also play a role but even the grass can only do so much if you’re not replacing (or increasing) what you’re removing. Then we all know if hay is rained on makes a difference as well.

Optimum soil and plant health will yield you better flavored hay in the same way you would fertilize vegetables for better flavor.

#7 Ray 54

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Posted 23 February 2021 - 06:51 PM

Way to many variables to know what all causes taste and smell in the hay. But if the critters eat it good most of the time, you must be doing the right things mostly.



Again since our moisture is mostly all in winter and things start drying real fast as grass heads in late spring, its different here than most places. But a heat wave that burns the leaves up as the seeds suck up the last of the moisture to mature always made a stubble/straw cattle really would clean up after combining. Most times oats, wheat, or barley cut late by other areas standards makes hay most livestock clean up well here. But I have seen fields where most livestock don't want it when you think it should be like our "normal" stuff. Never had any one thing that could be pointed out as the cause just 1 in a 100 kind of thing. 



Fertilizer is used on 95% of everything planted in my time, but old timers always said it was even more helpful in a dry year than a normal year.  But they where thinking in grain quality as in pounds per bushel and tonnage rather than hay tonnage and feeding quality.  With the dry coming at seed filling we can get a lot of hull verses a well filled seed in a bad year.  

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