The report of the U. S. Department of Agricuture fo 1889 shows that 3,600,000 acres of grass was cut for hay in Iowa in 1888. If the average yield was 1% tons of hay per acre, then the product of the state was 4,500.000 tons, which (at $4.00 per ton,) was worth $18,000,000. By general observation and from my own experience in feeding hay, I know that more than one-third of the value of each of our hay crops is lost on account of late cutting; exposure to rains, dews and the sun, and avoidable injuries after being stacked or stored in barns. If such great losses as that of $9,000,000 on our hay crop in 1888 were unusual, it would not be remarkable if we should give them but little attention; but as they are common annual losses, it is strange that greater efforts are not made to prevent them. I made from ninety to one-hundred tons of timothy and clover hay annually on my farm in Black Hawk county for twenty years; but I have learned long ago, that it is very difficult to cure grasses properly in Iowa when they are in the best condition for hay on account of unfavorable weather. It is but seldom that we do not have showers of rain; a very damp atmosphere; wet meadows, or heavy dews during haying times, which cause great losses even when good judgment and great care is used in performing the work. Many farmers begin to make hay at the proper time; but they let the work drag along until the greater part of their grass is ripe before it is cut. Others wait until their timothy and clover is ripe; because such grass is most easily cured, or because hay which is made from ripe grass is generally free from mould. The principal feeding value of hay is in the albuminoids and carbohydrates which it contains, and healthy growing plants are much richer in these substances than ripe plants of the same species. It has been proved also by chemical analyses and feeding experiments, that the grasses and clovers contain the largest quantities of available nutriment when they are in blossom. Properly cured bay is almost as digestible and valuable in every respect as grass; but the common shrinkage in the weights of well protected cattle and horses during the winter seasons, is sufficient proof, that hay is generally much inferior to living grasses. Plants have the power to exclude air and unnecessary moisture from their internal parts; but when they are cut down and dried or only partially dried, they absorb water readily. Grasses can not grow without water, air, heat and sunlight; but when they die, these are the agents which cause them to decay rapidly. On September 27th, a frost killed the leaves of several species of trees on the college campus, but it did not injure the leaves of others. Within a day or two after the frost, the color of ripe leaves changed from green to yellow; while the color of unripe tender leaves changed to a dull black within an hour after they were exposed to the sun. I gathered some of the yellow leaves when they began to fall from the trees and placed them on panes of glass and sprinkled them with water several times during the following afternoon. The next morning, I found a yellow substance like wet yellow ochre on the panes of glass under many of the leaves. After wetting and drying them several times I found also, that all of the soluble matter which they contained had been washed out, and that nothing was left, except worthless woody fiber. By exposing blades of orchard grass and millet and the firmer leaves of maple and cottonwood trees to the weather when it was showery, I found that the soluble parts of the grasses were washed out much more rapidly than the soluble parts of the leaves of the cottonwood and maple. It is well known, that green plants can be dried and kept in a dark room without any apparent change of color or substance for years, and that they fade and change rapidly in other respects when they are fully exposed to the sun. Such facts indicate that the common methods of making hay should be abandoned. Then, how can we make and store hay for future use without our sustaining considerable losses of albuminoids and other nutritive matter? I will answer the question by giving the results of experiments which I have tried at different times. The over-drying or sunburning of hay in clear hot weather, was my first mistake. I found that such hay did not heat or sweat in the stacks like good hay; that it lacked the odor of good hay, and that it did not supply the wants of my cattle and horses in a satisfactory manner. Generally, when I have cocked partially dried clover hay in ordinary haying seasons, to prevent its being injured by the sun and dews, I was compelled to spread it out again to dry and the result was usually that I had bleached or blackened hay of inferior quality. I have never known heavy rains to fall on cured or partially cured clover hay, that did not reduce its value less than one half, even when well cocked.
Speer, R. P.
"Experiments in making and storing hay,"
Bulletin: Vol. 1
, Article 2.
Available at: https://lib.dr.iastate.edu/bulletin/vol1/iss11/2