Our premium hay product is Tifton 85, which is the highest quality of all the Bermudagrasses. This versatile grass is good for grazing, hay, haylage, and greenchop, and when properly managed is comparable to alfalfa. Digestibility runs over 65%, and protein level can be 17% or more. Except for the hay we keep to feed our own horses and longhorn cattle, we sell most of our production to repeat buyers who commit to purchase a minimum of 100 bales annually and to large feed stores catering to customers seeking the highest quality hay for their horses. Those feed stores often repackage our hay into square bales of varying sizes.
Producing Tifton 85 to maximize its nutritive value and digestibility takes know how, money, equipment, timing, and some assistance from Mother Nature. At Winona Lakes Ranch, we use three Kubota cab tractors, two Massey Ferguson tractors, two commercial Vermeer balers with moisture readers (we bale at 15% moisture), two cutters, two tedders, and a granular fertilizer applicator. Whoever suggested that “watching the grass grow” was a slow moving and painfully boring activity obviously didn’t grow Tifton 85.
We produce three full crops known as “cuttings” from June through mid-September, and in some years of long summers and good rainfall we can get a fourth cutting. But when October arrives, summer grass growth slows considerably, and we usually choose to forego that fourth cut and save the water and electricity!
Every year, before the hay season begins, we test the soil to determine if an application of lime is required to reach the optimum ph. Then, each cutting cycle begins with an optimum application of granular fertilizer containing nitrogen, phosphorus, and potash. With warm weather and proper moisture, either by rainfall or irrigation, we can expect to start cutting about 4 weeks later. Along the way, of course, we carefully control weeds (we are trained and licensed to apply herbicides and pesticides safely) and proudly produce an almost weed free product. No grazing by cattle or horses is allowed in any of our hay meadows.
The harvesting process begins with cutting the grass, then tedding the cut grass several times over two days or until it reaches the correct moisture level and then raking it into windrows so the baling process can begin. Most of our Tifton 85 is rolled into net wrapped round bales weighing about 1200 pounds each. Bales are immediately moved to one of our covered storage barns or loaded in the field onto a trailer for transport. We produce a limited number of smaller round bales and square bales by preorder only. Tifton 85 retains its beautiful green color and nutritive value extremely well after baling with proper storage.
In years of normal rainfall, we produce another 50 acres of a Tifton 85/Coastal mix that is makes excellent hay, as well. These fields are not irrigated, but they get the same fertilization and care that our premium Tifton 85 hayfields receive.
Once bales are removed from the fields, we fertilize again and the process repeats about every 4 weeks until another crop is baled. The health of your animals, just like the health of our own animals, is important to us. We do everything we can to produce safe, nutritious forage, and we try to sell our hay for the same price every year, rain or drought, so our regular customers can depend on having hay every year at a reasonable and predictable price.
We invite you to check out videos of our hay production process available on this page.
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