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What are the pros and cons of farming brome hay?

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βˆ™ 2014-10-07 01:58:02

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Pros of farming Brome hay include it being good for a horse's diet, and it helps the soil by helping to prevent erosion. Cons of farming Brome hay include the need to harvest at the right time. The hay loses nutrients if it is not harvested before it has fully bloomed.

2014-10-07 01:58:02
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2014-10-07 19:14:49
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Brome hay is essentially harvested brome grass for purpose of feeding livestock like cattle and horses. Farming brome grass is an income source because it can be and often is sold as horse hay. It is also ideal for a horse's diet due to its fibrous content and nutrient value making it good for the horse's digestive system and reduce incidences of colic.

Brome hay takes nutrients from the soil because what is being harvested is not being returned to the soil. Though it would help the soil by reducing (not preventing) erosion because of such a crop being a perennial crop--perennial crops do not need to be tilled every year--it does not help the soil with nutrient quality. Brome grass takes up a lot of nutrients for inflorescence (seed head) development, including phosphorus, calcium, potassium and nitrogen, and a constant removal of these nutrients will result in lower biomass and lower hay yields per harvest. In order to increase or maintain soil nutrient quality, fertilizer must be added in the form of man-made petroleum-based pelleted fertilizer, or animal manure from cattle or chickens. Soil testing must be done to know what nutrients are deficient and need to be added on an annual basis.


Producing brome hay is also subject to weather and environmental extremes. Drought can significantly reduce yields to the point where the farmer will get very little hay off the fields. Severe drought can even kill off brome plants and reduce vigour due to their shallower root structure (when compared to native grasses that often have a deeper root system specially adapted for environmental extremes). Irrigation may be necessary to guarantee a good hay crop in areas where drought is a risk or rainfall is lower than required for producing moderate to high yields of brome hay. Hail also a significant risk, and can destroy an entire field of brome and make it almost impossible to get any worthwhile hay off of.


As a part of the environment, brome grasses are cool-season grasses. This means they are more likely to have greatest biomass during one time of the year than all times. A farmer is more likely to get a high-yielding brome hay crop into late spring/early summer than late summer or early fall. A second harvest in the latter part of this year should expect to have a lower yield. Brome grasses normally will go into dormancy once the hottest part of the year arrives, and even when cut before this time of year, growth will slow until a cooler time allows them to grow further. In the Southern USA, brome grass may be best harvested for best hay yields in early spring and late fall. Also, because brome grass is a cool-season grass, this limits not only when the best hay harvest will be, but where. Northerly parts of the USA and Canada are better suited for brome-grass hay production than the southern or southwestern part of the US.


When to hay is also important and can work against a farmer if they have little idea when the right time to harvest brome grass is. Though brome grass can be harvested at any time of the life cycle, the best time to harvest is in early to mid-bloom. Full bloom quickly leads to senescence which means brome goes into dormancy, and will remain in dormancy for much of the year. All the nutrients are being forced up into the head of the brome plant, with little to no nutrient left in the leaves and stems. However, if the brome plants are harvested before blooming, the plant is going to be mostly water and little else.


Timing of gathering hay is also crucial. Not only will grasses loose nutritional value of harvested too late or too early, but if left out in the windrows or swaths too long, the hay could also loose nutritional value. Rain will also leach nutrients from the swaths of brome, particularly if there are several days of it. The swaths must be dry (~20 percent moisture) in order for it to be gathered for hay. If the hay is too wet the bales will be mouldy in the middle, which will lose monetary value and overall quality when sold to horse folks--and horse folks do NOT want to feed mouldy bales to their horses. A wet bale is also likely to combust, resulting in barn fires which can destroy an entire hay supply. This is due to the heat generated with anaerobic activity within a wet bale.


Market demand for brome hay depends on the quality of the hay, the species of brome grass you are raising--as there are many, including smooth brome, meadow brome, cheatgrass (or downy brome), Japanese brome, etc. (Check out the Wikipedia page "Bromus" to see a list of species of brome grass). Different species can have different level of quality, and some species are more welcome to be raised as hay than others. For instance, cheatgrass is a low-quality grass (especially when maturity is reached) that is highly invasive if raised next to native range or pasture. Smooth brome, also invasive, is a high-quality pasture or hay grass that can be used for pasture or hay. Since markets for hay is prone to fluctuation and risk, often it can be used as a part of the farm or ranch operation and not relied on as the entire enterprise. A producer who chooses to grow brome grass for hay may also grow other crops or raise livestock--like horses, cows, sheep, goats, or exotics like bison or elk--in addition to brome hay production. That way, if markets are down and he or she cannot sell their hay, they can choose to feed it to their animals instead and wait for next year to get a fresher, hopefully better harvest with better market potential.

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