Grass hay production

Asked January 27, 2014, 5:22 PM EST

I am wanting to grow grass hay for horses. How much production (in small square bales per acre or tons per acre) can I expect on good soil (85 CSR) with adequate nutrients and normal rainfall? Any advice on types of grasses to use?

Grundy County Iowa

1 Response

I am the - soon to retire - Forage Extension Specialist at Iowa State University.
There are a lot of variables associated with your question(s).

Type of grass ?

General yield rankings of the perennial grasses that are adapted to Iowa........
smooth bromegrass, orchardgrass, tall fescue ( endophyte fungus free !!!), & reed canarygrass are nearly equal, with similar stand density, fertilizer, etc.

With adequate Phosphorus (P). & Potassium ( K) maybe 1-1/12 T/A with P, K and 120 - 150 lb nitrogen (N) /A maybe 2 to 3 T/A (half of the N as the grasses begin growth in the spring and the other half after the 1st hay cut or in early August for fall growth.)

The 1st cut of grass hay will yield ~ 1/2 to 2/3 of the seasonal total, with less yield from the 2nd (and 3rd (assuming decent summer rainfall)

Don't expect much hay in the seeding/planting year, and maybe only 1/2 to 2/3 of the potential yield in the year after seeding ( the plants will still be developing their size and crowns.)

Slightly lower in yield from .............. timothy

Lowest in yield (mechanical harvest) ......... Kentucky bluegrass (generally not recommended for hay harvest, byut OK for pasture-- however, KY bluegrass pasture yield is also about half the yield of brome or orchardgrass pastures.)

For a shot-term contribution, maybe annual or perennial ryegrass - they usually winterkill the 1st or 2nd winter! If you use these I don't recommend more than about 15 to 20% in the original seed mixture.

You might consider a blend of smooth bromegrass, orchardgrass and timothy.

Bale sizes and weights are too variable to say how many bales per acre.