How to grow hay

Learn how to grow timothy hay, growing timothy hay is easy but requires a few basic conditions which you can read below.

USDA Zones — 3-9

Difficulty — Easy

Other names — Herd grass, Herd’s grass, Meadow cat’s-tail, Phleum pratense, Timothy, Timothy grass, Meadow cat’s-tail and common cat’s tail.

How to grow hay

Timothy (Phleum pratense) is a perennial grass that grows of itself in some places, especially in the north, in the east and on the mountains. The leaves of timothy grass are quite pale green. Young leaves are rolled into the sleeve and then they grow in spirals. The base of the plant is often bulged and bulbous.

Timothy grass is generally used as hay to feed horses and that’s why is it also called Timothy hay. Apart from being used as hay it also produces a durable and attractive lawn. Growing timothy hay is relatively an easier task.

How to Grow Timothy Hay

Propagation and Planting Timothy Grass

  • Prepare a place to sow seeds. Remove all weeds from the planting site with a hoe.
  • Sprinkle the seeds on the planting site. The seeds must cover about one half of the total surface area of ​​the soil.
  • Rake to incorporate the planting site of the seeds in the soil. Sow the seeds no more than 1/2 inches deep.
  • Slowly moisten the soil and keep it moist until the seeds germinate.
  • For growing timothy hay, sow seeds in spring or late summer, you can also plant seeds in early fall.

Requirements for Growing Timothy Hay


Timothy hay growing should be done on a flat area that receives partial shade. This cool season grass is undemanding and doesn’t require any special care.

Timothy grass grows well in both sandy or clay rich soil. It tolerates the wet conditions and thrives in slightly dry state for a short time too.


Keep the soil moist all the time. For growing timothy hay, regular watering is required as the plant has shallow roots that are not able to provide water under the surface of the soil, so even a short drought period can be detrimental for plant.

Timothy Hay Care

The timothy hay field should not be trampled on during drought periods because the grass has very shallow and fine roots that are sensitive at these times.


Feed it with fertilizer rich in nitrogen in spring and again after harvesting. If you’re growing timothy hay with legumes, skip the nitrogen fertilizer. For accuracy in fertilization soil testing is recommended.


Timothy grass hay should be harvested at the right time for best quality. The ideal harvest time comes at the early flowering stage.

How to grow hay

For the last couple of weeks I’ve been at my in-laws’ farm. They needed some help on their farm, and I was more than happy to oblige. Because it was hay season, I got to learn a lot about hay.

So here’s what I learned about hay.

Bonus Video

In this bonus video, I show you the process of making hay in Farming Simulator 2013.

Let me know what you think.

What type of hay seeds work?

When you grow hay it can be a combination of seeds. Many farmers prefer a combination of different seeds.

A great combination is alfalfa, fescu grass and clover.

Depending on what type of livestock a farmer has will change what combination of hay they want. Some horse farmers prefer one combination where sheep farmers may want another.

Keep that in mind when you’re selling hay. Take note of what’s in your hay because some farmers are very particular.

How to know when to cut hay?

It’s funny when I was helping out, I didn’t cut any hay, so I had no idea when to do it. So I asked when you should cut hay.

The best time to cut hay is when your hay-field is just about to flower. That’s the answer I got for first cut.

OMAFRA suggests cutting hay in the morning just after the morning dew is off for better drying. However, if you want more sugar in your hay OMAFRA suggests cutting hat later in the day.

Try to cut a swath that is as large as possible. This helps hay dry faster.

How to know when hay is dry?

Now that you’ve cut the hay you need to know when it’s dry. The way I learned to see if it is dry is to reach under the windrow and feel the bottom of the hay.

If the hay feels moist, then it’s not ready to bale. An easy test to do to see if hay is ready and bend it in half. If the hay is still wet, it won’t make any crunching sounds. If the hay is ready, it will make a crunching sound and snap almost. Do this test with the hay at the bottom of your windrow.

If the hay it still moist, you have two options:

  1. You can use a tedder to turn over hay and to help it dry faster.
  2. You can wait a bit longer to let it dry.

The advantage of using a tedder is that your hay will dry faster. The disadvantage is by tedding you will lose material in turning over your hay.

If you wait longer, then time and the weather will be your problem.

How to bale hay?

How to grow hay

This is a picture of me using the small square baler attempting to get all the hay in the baler.

I didn’t do much baling because I was very slow at it, but I did do some when I was at the in-laws.

I noticed that you have to bale very slow in most cases. I was using a small square baler and the windrows were pretty big, so I had a hard time to keep the baler where I wanted it.

One choice you need to make if you’re baling rounds is, whether you want net wrap or twine.

This choice is largely dependant on your baler. Some balers can use both others only twine.

Advantages of using twine

  • Twine is very cheap. It runs around 30$ for 28,000 feet.

Disadvantages of using twine

  • Twine takes a while to wrap bales up. If you’re using a round baler, you will have to wait longer using twine.

Advantages of net wrap

  • Net wrap is faster than using twine. Even if you do two wraps, it’s quicker than twine.
  • Because you’re not spinning the bale as much, there is less loss when spinning.
  • Also, net wrap bales come out very neat and tidy, which can help if you’re selling hay.
  • Some suggest that net wrap can shed water better than twine.

Disadvantages of net wrap

  • Net wrap is more expensive than twine. It can be one dollar per bale whereas twine is cents.
  • Some farmers say that net wrap bales stick to frozen ground more than twine.

Storing hay

How to grow hay

My father in law picking up the small squares in the field.

Once you’ve baled your hay you need to store it somewhere.

The best place to store hay is inside. Cover alls, or storage sheds work well.

If you don’t have storage space inside, you can use a tarp to protect your hay outside.

A big concern when you’re storing hay is heat. You need to be very careful how you store you hay. If you bunch hay bales together too much, your hay will heat up. So, provide space for the heat to escape.

Final thoughts

Hay is a lot of work but the rewards are well worth it. I mean without it, many animals wouldn’t have anything to eat.

How to grow hay

When it comes to hay production, most of the intense labor happens when it’s time to harvest. With up to four passes through the field required just to cut, rake, bale, and move alfalfa, and four to five harvests during a typical season in the Midwest, producing hay isn’t for the faint of heart.

Hay has the potential to bring good money that makes it competitive with other crops, University of Nebraska-Lincoln extension forage specialist Bruce Anderson says, you just have to take the right management steps and hope for accommodating weather. Here are seven steps to help you produce a quality alfalfa yield:

1. Choose an appropriate field.

Soil pH should be in the 6.5 to 7 range for vigorous alfalfa growth, Anderson says. Ideally, you’d choose a field that you already know hasn’t struggled with weed issues in the past. If you must use a weed-prone site, you’ll need to consider different alfalfa varieties and herbicide options.

2. Plant the right seed variety.

Anderson suggests choosing an alfalfa variety that’s more digestible and low-lignin for a better chance at a healthy, abundant crop.

3. Scout regularly.

Getting out into the fields twice a week should be enough in most alfalfa fields. Be looking closely for signs of disease or pests like the alfalfa weevil and potato leaf hopper.

4. Cut alfalfa at the best time.

Timing mowing to line up ahead of multiple dry days is tricky enough, but there’s also crop maturity to consider. Cut before blooming, at a relatively young maturity level, so the feed value is as high as possible. If the crop goes too long without being cut, the coarse stem will become less digestible for livestock, Anderson says.

5. Set yourself up for drying success.

When mowing the hay, run it through a properly adjusted conditioner and lay the hay out into wide windrows. This will give the hay the most possible exposure to sunlight to help it dry down quickly.

6. Lean on moisture levels.

Leaves are the most valuable part of alfalfa but can be easily lost if the crop is handled at the wrong moisture level. “When raking the hay, do so while the hay is still relatively moist to avoid serious leaf loss,” says Anderson. The window is narrow to rake hay without shaking off leaves. Anderson recommends moisture levels of 14-15% for large square bales, 17-18% for big round bales, and 18-20% for small square bales.

7. Be smart about bale storage.

Bales need protection from the weather to avoid loss. If at all possible, store bales in a shed or under tarps. “If stored exposed to weather conditions, make sure they’re on well-drained sites with bales oriented in north-south type rows to allow sunlight to hit on both sides of (round) bales,” says Anderson.

How to grow hay

In a cattle operation, access to adequate hay is vital. With prices already high, farmers are choosing to grow their own hay. But which scenarios are best for growth? Should you transition a corn or soybean field? Which nurse crop is best? Seeding hay is one conversation taking place in the Farmers For The Future network.

“I currently have 30 acres of alfalfa that need to be torn up, says Brady Smith of Emerson, Iowa. “It’s been in production for a long time and hasn’t been as productive. I’d like to take a first cutting off and no-till soybeans into the standing alfalfa, then kill the alfalfa with Roundup. I think it will be worth getting one cutting simply so I don’t have to buy as much hay next year. Does anybody have experience seeding new alfalfa? I have a 30-acre field with good access, but this will be my first go at seeding.”

This response comes from pooboynotiller. “The soil needs to be very firm,” he advises. “To decide if it’s ready to plant, I put on a pair of leather-sole boots and walk across the field. If there is anywhere that the soft dirt goes above the sole, it’s too soft. I personally like to drill my alfalfa by itself in the fall – about a month or so before killing frost.”

“I currently have 30 acres of alfalfa that need to be torn up.” – Brady Smith

Dave Kraeer adds, “We always plant a mix of timothy and alfalfa new seedings with oats as a nurse crop. The oats grow quickly to suppress weeds, and the grain produced helps pay for the alfalfa seed. Also, we bale the straw for cow bedding. Our target planting date is late March to early April. Last year with the weather, we weren’t able to get it in until June. Oats can also be baled for hay when it’s between the boot and early-heading stage.”

Andrew Akin says, “We always take the first cutting, then no-till corn. We get a bigger bang with that fixed nitrogen on corn. Make sure you get a little regrowth on the alfalfa or you won’t get a good kill; you’ll have to come back over the top of the corn with a post spray. We usually chop that corn, rip and work that ground, then put winter wheat in. Next year, after you take the wheat off, soil-sample it and put on what you need, then go back to alfalfa in September. The fall-planted stuff always seems to do better for us, because we have less of a weed pressure than we do with spring-planted alfalfa.”

How to grow hay

Hay is essential for any farm, whether it is a casual backyard farm or a tremendous commercial operation. Commercial farms have little difficulty raising hay or sourcing out their needs, but smaller farmers and urban hobbyists can also grow, harvest and bale hay even on a smaller scale.

Why You Want to Do Your Own Haying

Haying can be challenging, and some farmers simply enjoy that challenge. There are several other reasons why you may want to raise your own hay, however, including…

  • Saving on feed costs, particularly if you raise higher quality hay or split labor with other interested farmers or hobbyists.
  • Controlling exactly how the hay is raised and processed, including chemicals that may be used on the crop.
  • Successfully rotating crops and allowing soil to recover and regenerate with hay crops between other crop seasons.
  • Controlling field overgrowth or encroachment of weeds, forest or other unwanted plants into usable fields and pastures.
  • Making extra money by selling excess hay when the field would otherwise be unused and turn no profit at all.

No matter what your reason for growing, harvesting and baling hay, it can be a great project that can reap great rewards.

Growing Your Hay

Hay – grasses and legumes that can be dried for stock feed – is simple to grow either as part of a crop rotation or a permanent meadow, and grows naturally in many areas. Better knowledge of the best types of hay and what is needed for a healthy crop, however, will increase the field’s yield and nutrition. Local climate, moisture levels and soil condition will all impact hay quality. Alfalfa, clover and fescue grasses are popular hay types, as well as brome and timothy grasses. Oats and millet can also be useful for hay crops. The best hay to raise will depend not only on growing conditions, but also on the livestock that will eventually eat the hay and what their feed preferences may be.

When sowing hay, seed should be spread evenly to minimize the intrusion of unwanted weeds or other growth, though most hay types are fast-growing and will quickly crowd out other plants. In drier climates or drought periods, supplemental irrigation may be needed until the hay is well established and thriving. Extra fertilization is not usually needed but can be added, particularly if the field is initially barren or worn out.

Harvesting Your Hay

Hay can be harvested at different times, and it is a balance between harvesting the crop when the yield is highest and the nutrition is richest. Ideally, hay crops should be harvested just when they begin to bloom. When flowers begin to appear, the stalks are at their highest nutritional density, before all that nutrition is channeled into seed formation. Harvesting too early may result in a lower overall yield, while later harvesting means the hay is less nutritious for the stock.

The best day for harvesting will be a hot, dry day with low humidity, so cut hay can dry quickly and evenly. Cutting can be done by hand or with different types of machinery, depending on the type of hay crop and the field size. Tools should be kept sharp, and may need to be resharpened several times during the harvest. When harvesting hay, it is best to move slowly and deliberately for even cutting, as well as to minimize harm to any wildlife – snakes, birds, etc. – that may be hiding in the tall grasses.

Once the hay is cut, it should be spread evenly to dry thoroughly before baling. Depending on the weather conditions and the weight of the hay, it may be able to dry adequately just on the ground, or it may need to be propped up for better air circulation. Raking or turning the hay can also help it dry evenly. Drying chemicals are available that can be sprayed on cut hay to help it dry more quickly, but this may not be desirable if you prefer more organic, minimally-processed hay.

Depending on the soil condition, hay type and when it is sowed and harvested, it may be possible to get two or even three cuttings of hay in one year.

Baling Your Hay

Once the hay is cut and dry, it is time for baling. If your harvest is small, it may not be necessary to bale hay at all – it can be stored loose in stacks or in a barn loft. Baling, however, makes the hay more compact for easier transportation or storage, especially if it will be sold. Baling is typically done by machine, and may be done in round or rectangular shapes depending on the type of baling equipment and personal preferences. Bales are tied with twine, wire or nets – twine is cheapest but can also break easiest or decay more quickly, while wire and nets are more durable but costlier.

After baling, it is important to store your hay properly or all your work will be wasted. If possible, store bales stacked with some space between them to permit air circulation and heat dissipation, and store them on a pallet so air can also circulate underneath the bales. Bales should be covered from rain and snow, either in a shed or under a sturdy roof or tarp. A good fence around the bales can also keep livestock or wildlife from uninvited snacks.

Growing, harvesting and baling hay may not be done by hand very often, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be or it isn’t worthwhile for small farmers or urban hobbyists to take on the challenge. With proper consideration and good effort, any farmer can raise a healthy, nutritious, profitable crop of hay.

Check the ways on how to plant potatoes in hay. You just have to use a little energy to plant potatoes. Prepare the hay before the potatoes are planted on the hay. Even though you have a very small space, the potatoes will grow well in the hay. You can harvest the potatoes at the end of the season. Therefore, you can save a lot of cash for buying the potatoes.

How to Plant Potatoes in Hay: Way 1 get the appropriate potato plants

Visit the local garden center in town if you want to plant the high quality potato plant. You can choose the white potato. Don’t purchase the potato from the supermarket because of the risk of having the garden soil contaminated by the diseases.

How to grow hay

How to Plant Potatoes in Hay

How to Plant Potatoes in Hay: Way 2 the seed

You can apply three seeds of potatoes of on the organic soil material. The potatoes will need the soil filled with a high amount of organic materials. You can infuse the soil with compost so that the plants can get enough nutrients to grow well. Don’t forget to decide the length of the row. It can have the width at 12 inches and depth at 4 inches.

How to grow hay

Potatoes in Hay Image

How to Plant Potatoes in Hay: Way 3 the planting time

How to grow hay

Potatoes in Hay Pic

How to Plant Potatoes in Hay: Way 4 the trench

The trench that you have built should be filled with hay. It should be free from dirt and weed. If you spot the emerged potato plant from the hay, you need to add extra hay. Water the hays regularly. Keep it moist, but not wet. Get ways on how to arrange vegetable garden bed here.

How to grow hay

Potatoes in Hay

How to Plant Potatoes in Hay: Way 5 the benefits of hays

Hays are used to grow various plants like potatoes and tomatoes because they have a lot of benefits. The moisture in the soil is maintained because of the presence of hay. The tuber will not turn green and the weed is smoother. Get ways on how to plant potatoes in tires here.

How to grow hay

Potatoes in Hay Ideas

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How to grow hay

If you own land well-suited for hay production, consider one main obstacle removed. However, purchasing hay-growing equipment — at a minimum you’ll need a tractor, mower, hay rake and baler — is costly and will likely prevent you from earning a profit your first year or two in business. A hay business depends on two things: cooperative weather and a reliable customer base. You can get by with fewer acres in a climate that grants you several cuttings per year, and an eager customer base guarantees fast-paced sales that can reduce or even eliminate your storage requirements.

Hay is grown in all 50 states, although the type of grass varies by geographical region.

New or Used Equipment

You can easily spend $100,000 on the the newest and greatest machinery. Shiny, new farm equipment has advantages, such as fewer breakdowns and factory or dealer warranties. However, any profit you make for the first few years, depending on your acreage and yield, goes directly to the cost of this equipment, so the more you spend the longer it will take to recoup that cost.

A more affordable option is purchasing used equipment. Social media and online sales sites, such as Craigslist, are resources for finding used farm equipment. Look out for farm equipment auctions in your area. Purchasing used equipment can save you 50 percent or more on upfront capital start-up costs.

Hay can be baled in small, rectangular bales, or large round rolls. Each type requires different baling equipment.

You can rent the equipment, but ongoing rental costs reduce your profits each cutting — the time when your hay is ready to harvest — rather than those costs eventually being paid off over time.

Renting the equipment your first year only is a viable option until you establish a reliable customer base. Hiring someone to do the seeding can save you from purchasing seeding equipment, because hay fields only need to be seeded every few years.

It’s All About the Land

Your land may not be your biggest cost, but it is a requisite. You can circumvent a land purchase by finding hay acreage to rent, but this will also cut into your profits as a recurring cost rather than a one-time expense. Land sale prices vary widely by region; a Texas hay entrepreneur may spend twice as much per acre than his North Dakotan counterpart, but think in the thousands, rather than hundreds, of dollars per acre, regardless of where you are.

Price per acre is typically lower the more acreage you purchase.

You don’t need hundreds of acres to start out. In fact, with today’s equipment designed for small, hobby farms, you can grow and harvest on less than 10 acres. But, depending on your growing season, you’ll likely have to charge more per bale than a competitor farming 10 times that size. And your production will be lower, which limits your customer base.

Assess your available customer base to determine how much land to buy. If you know demand is high, and you’re a reasonable distance from farm feed stores, horse owners or horse boarding facilities, you have plenty of selling options. Query a feed store owner or horse boarding operator about monthly usage, then calculate the required minimum acreage to meet that based on average yields in your area.

Per Acreage Yield

According to Roger Johnson, president of the National Farmer’s Union and a third-generation North Dakota farmer, hay yield is calculated in tons, as individual bale weights can vary. Your yield depends on the type of grass used, as well as soil and weather conditions. Typically, though, expect between one and two tons per acre per cutting. Typical square bales weigh from 50 to 100 pounds, while round bales easily weigh in at 1,000 pounds and up; you’re not likely to get more than 50 smaller square bales per acre, and only one to two round bales.

You can sell to feed stores or large-scale customers by the ton, which can minimize concerns about variations in individual bale weights.

Seasonal Cuttings

One thing to consider when determining how much land to purchase is your climate: A hay producer in the North is likely to get only two cuttings per year, while one in the South may get three or four easily — sometimes more. Thus, the Ohio hay producer on 50 acres may only yield two to four tons per year, while the Texas farmer gets twice that.

Other Expenses

One advantage to hay farming is that you may only need to seed your land every two to five years, so consider seed an occasional cost of at least $100 per acre. What you do need to do to ensure consistent quality, is fertilize your hay crop. You also need to factor in the minimal fuel costs for cutting and baling. While all of these costs are affected by external factors and geographical regions, make preliminary estimates of at least $200 to $300 per acre for fuel and fertilizer.

Calculating Your Profit

How much profit you can expect per bale is dependent on several factors, from where you operate, to the weather in a given year. Before going into business, survey growers in your area to gauge their wholesale prices to retail or individual customers. This price may also vary depending on whether the hay is delivered. For example, in 2015 in Central Texas, hay growers may sell square bales to individual customers for $6.50 per bale if the customers pick it out of the field, $7.50 after the hay producer has loaded it and stored it in a barn, and $8.50 or more if delivered. So, using an example of 50 acres with two cuttings per year, yielding 50 bales per acre equals 5,000 bales total. Your fertilizer and fuel are $300 per acre, or $15,000, which is $3.00 per bale. Not including any of your capital equipment purchases or other upfront costs, such as seed that year, anything above $3.00 per bale is your profit, and you can set your sales price above that according to what your particular market will bear.

Things That Go Wrong

Timing is everything in any type of farming; one thing you’ll get used to is worrying about the weather. Too much rain, rain at the wrong time and drought are your enemies. An even bigger issue, according to Johnson, is rainfall after cutting but before baling. “The hay loses quality, color and weight, and chances of mold increase if it’s wet for too long or if the climate is warm and humid,” said Johnson. Pests and weeds are also a concern, so some years may include additional costs for pesticides and weedkiller.


Mold and mold spores are extremely toxic to horses.

You need a storage building for your bales to keep them dry if they are not purchased directly from the field, or if you don’t deliver them to customers immediately after baling them.

Binomial Name: Dactylis glomerata

Orchardgrass makes an ideal everyday forage grass for a wide variety of livestock, including cattle, sheep, goats, horses and others. Easy to digest and cultivate, it makes a fine choice for hay, grazing and silage. It grows in bunches and is quick to establish itself in most locations, and is best-suited as a cool season grass. As always, consult an animal feed expert, veterinarian, or other qualified professional before initiating any feeding regime.

acidic, fertile, well-drained

For hay, thin to 12-18" or less

Cattle, sheep, others

Growing Guide
Orchardgrass is ideally sown in spring, or late summer. Note that sowing in mid to late August or later may not give young starts enough time go become stable for the oncoming winter.

A well-prepared seedbed will help to promote higher quality orchardgrass. This should be done 6 months or more prior to the expected planting date to ensure that added amendments have significant time to react with soil. The first step will be to test the pH of the soil with a tester, available at a farm or home & garden store. Ideally, the soil should have a pH between 6.5 to 7.0. Soil can be amended with lime (limestone) if needed to raise pH. Do not sow if pH is not 6.2 or higher. Amendment with organic fertilizers rich in nitrogen is recommended.

For grazing, orchard grass is best sown with legumes to provide a more balance nutritional profile and to assist with nitrogen fixation. Avoid sowing with other grasses.

Seeds should be sown approximately ¼-1/2" deep. Seeds sown deeper may not be able to break through the surface of the soil. Gently pack soil to ensure good seed to soil contact. Like most seeds, they require warmth and plenty of water to germinate. Do not start in arid or excessively dry locations or conditions. If sowing in fall, do not sow later than one month prior to the first average frost of the fall.

Orchardgrass is fairly tolerant of drought, traffic and other challenging growing conditions.

Orchardgrass is often considered suitable for a wide range of livestock. As always, consult an animal feed expert, veterinarian, or other qualified professional before initiating any feeding regime.

If growing for pasture, orchardgrass pairs well with clover varieties for balanced nutrition and nitrogren fixing from the legume. This will also help to promote and ensure healthier stands. Rotating orchardgrass with other forage crops is recommended, to promote more balance nutritional intake by livestock, and to allow orchardgrass and other plants adequate time to recover from grazing.

Do not allow livestock to overgraze orchardgrass-ideal height for grazing is 6 inches or more. Grazing below 3-4 inches can cause damage to plants, retarding future growth and delaying future grazings. Additionally, grass taller than 10" or so can become unpalatable and less nutritious.

If growing orchardgrass in the absence of legumes, fertilization with nitrogen is recommended. This is not necessary if growing with legumes as they will fix nitrogen naturally in the surrounding soil. Periodic fertilizing with organic sources of phosphorus and potassium is also recommended.

It is a good idea to periodically check the pH of stands-ideally this should remain between 6.0-7.0. If pH drops, top dressing with lime can be used to correct.