Selecting Species and Varieties

What plants make good hay?  

  • Find forage species information by selecting common name or Latin name (list)
  • - Select the plant characteristics you would like and view a list of matching species (search tool)
  • View seed vendors, variety trial yield data, publications, and additional species databases (list)
  • Find forage species information by selecting common name or Latin name (list)

Cool-season grasses: perennial ryegrass / orchardgrass / tall fescue, etc.

Warm season grasses: Corn / Sorghum/sudangrass, etc.

Cool-season legume species: alfalfa and others

Warm-season legume species: globally, what ones are used?

Quality Evaluations

(How do you test for high quality hay?) 

Organoleptic: sight, smell, taste

Laboratory tests: nutritional issues

Publications on hay quality evaluation:
Michigan State University - Nutrition Advisory Group Handbook
North Carolina State University - How To Select Quality Hay
University of Kentucky - Quality Hay Production
Utah State University - Hay Quality Sensory Evaluation Guidelines

Marketing and Sales

To effectively market hay, a farmer needs to provide reasons why people should choose his/her hay over others. This does not mean setting a low price, because anyone can set a lower one. This means growing high quality forage for hay, and testing it to prove that it has high nutritional value.

To improve marketing, consider the perspective of the buyer- what animals the hay is for, what types of forage the buyer wants, etc. When selling the hay, decide on the price, amount, and terms of payment and delivery. Grow high quality forage, and bale the hay in convenient amounts, making sure that the bale will stay together. Make sure that you have a way to sell any low quality forage that you grow. Always check in with the customer afterwards for satisfaction- a customer who thinks that you care is more likely to buy from you again.

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Additional information link:

Test hay for quality of forage as part of marketing. Because of the general lack of standardization of the market, it is important to be able to show potential buyers test results that show that the hay is of high quality.

Also inspect the hay visually for quality. Things to check for include the presence of weeds, leaves damaged by disease or insects, mold, proportions of stems and leaves, forage maturity, color of the hay, and legume to grass ratio.

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Additional information links:

For more information, refer to the Marketing section: