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Don’t let respiration ruin hay quality

Respiration in plants involves the breakdown of starches and sugars to produce energy and carbon dioxide. While this process is necessary for plant growth, forage continues to respire after it is cut for hay, which can compromise dry matter and forage quality.

In an article from the Midwest Forage Association’s Clippings newsletter, Dan Undersander, emeritus professor and forage specialist with the University of Wisconsin–Madison, notes 2% to 8% of forage dry matter is lost due to respiration after cutting. Dry matter loss tends to be greater when forage is put in narrow windrows because less leaf area is exposed to the sun and stomates have limited capacity for gas exchange.

Furthermore, forage quality declines during respiration because starches and sugars are highly digestible nutrients. Breaking these components down ultimately raises the percentage of less digestible nutrients in forage and elevates its neutral detergent fiber (NDF) content.

June 6, 2023 08:00 AM

By Amber Friedrichsen, Associate Editor



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