High levels of ash content are problematic in hay since ash provides no nutritional benefit to livestock. Hay raking may impact ash content, but the effect of different hay rake types on ash content is unknown. The objectives were to determine the effect of rake type on ash content and forage nutritive values of alfalfa (Medicago sativa L.) hay. Replicated trials were conducted on two cuttings of alfalfa in Minnesota, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. During raking, two swath rows were combined using one of the following rake types: wheel, sidebar, rotary, or merger. Samples were collected during the four phases of hay harvest: standing forage, post-cut, post-raked, and post-baled or chopped and analyzed for ash content and forage nutritive values. Ash content was different in five of the six sites-cuttings post-raking (P ≤ 0.05). The hay merger and sidebar rake resulted in the least amount of ash (90–136 g kg–1) while the wheel rake (100–153 g kg–1) resulted in the greatest amount of ash. Differences in forage nutritive values were rarely observed due to rake type and ranged from 200–241 g kg–1 crude protein (CP), 374–480 g kg–1 NDF, and 393 to 532 g kg–1 neutral detergent fiber digestibility (NDFd) post-raking. First cutting alfalfa differed in relative forage quality (RFQ) post-raking where the hay merger and sidebar rake tended to result in greater RFQ values (121–165) compared with the wheel rake (114–160; P ≤ 0.05). Using a hay merger or sidebar rake to combine swaths resulted in less ash content compared with a wheel rake; however, rake type rarely resulted in differences in forage nutritive values.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
This research was funded by a grant from USDA-NIFA Alfalfa Seed and Forage Systems Research Program. We acknowledge the cooperation of Leaning Pine Farm and thank New Holland Agriculture for the use of the hay merger in Minnesota.
© 2017 by the American Society of Agronomy.
Copyright 2017 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.