July 23, 2012
Livestock producers around the state are looking to salvage ruined crops for livestock feed. Refer to previous posts to explore using drought stressed corn for corn silage. A month ago we knew the corn was suffering and that there would be yield problems, but we were holding out hope for the bean crop. Now those hopes are fading as well and producers are asking "Can I mow and bale my soybeans for hay?"
That question cannot be correctly answered before they do a couple things. First, always contact your crop insurance agent before harvesting or destroying a crop. This is foremost and will save a lot of headaches. Second, there are many herbicides and pesticides that have restrictions for forage use. It is of utmost importance that you know what chemicals have been applied to your soybean fields and READ THE LABEL! Click here to find out more about herbicide restrictions.
Assuming that you have checked with your crop insurance agent and you have not applied chemicals with restriction for forages, soybean fields are an option to bale for emergency forage.
There are challenges that go with making soybean hay. The stems if not crimped with a conditioner mower will dry slowly, uneven drying may result in leaf loss, and the job is inevitably extremely dusty. Bean hay that contains lots of dust and stems can result in poor intake and lots of waste.
Harvesting soybeans for silage is another option. Harvest around 65% moisture or 35% DM. Be prepared to mix with other feedstuffs as palatability is not great. It is also recommended that you wait until soybeans are nearing maturity (R5) before harvesting for silage. You can take them earlier for hay.
Nutrient value of soybean hay can be quite good. Because it is a legume, many compare the nutrient value to fair or poor quality alfalfa. The protein can be expected to be in the neighborhood of 18% CP and TDN in the mid to low 50's. This would beat most average or poor grass hays.
Click here for more details on soybeans for hay or silage courtesy of UW Extension