Cane hay and other summer annual grasses can grow rapidly even when planted late like with prevented plantings. Make sure you watch it closely to get it cut in time.
I often encourage you to cut cane hay or hay from other summer annual grasses when they get about waist high. Reasons for this relatively early cut include better protein and energy content, faster drying, and better palatability.
This last week, I saw a few fields and heard about many more that were way beyond that point. Some were even headed out and maturing rapidly. If this describes any of your fields, get them harvested as soon as possible.
What’s the rush, you ask. Of course, part of my concern is the lower forage quality and greater difficulty with getting the hay dry enough to bale that occurs when these plants get large and mature. But another concern with these fields is all the seed they can produce. If you allow that seed to mature before cutting, it can pose problems for years to come.
For starters, you won’t get much of that seed to remain in your hay when you cut it. Most of that seed will shatter from the heads and fall to the ground either before you cut or when you strike the plants at harvest.
Then the potential problems begin. Over the next few years, that seed will germinate and cause potential weed problems for future crops. Because cane and many other summer annual grasses are members of the sorghum family, cross-pollination could result in some of the seeds producing shattercane plants. And we all know how much more difficult shattercane can be to control than many other weeds.
So use timely harvest. You will get better hay and fewer weeds.
Bruce Anderson is a hay and forage professor at Nebraska Extension.