Maturity Matters for High-Quality Hay

Producing high-quality hay should be a goal for every cattle producer. Regardless of forage species, the stage of maturity is one of the most important factors affecting hay quality — and it’s where producers can make the greatest improvements.

Why maturity matters:
As grasses and legumes advance from the vegetative to the seed stage, they become higher in fiber and lower in protein, digestibility, and palatability. Forage quality deteriorates rapidly as the forage matures, even though yield continues to increase.

Optimum maturity stages for each species:
Alfalfa – Bud stage for first cutting, 1:10 bloom and stem ratio for second and later cuttings. For new spring seedings, allow the first cutting to reach full bloom.
Orchardgrass, Timothy, Tall Fescue – Boot to early head stage for first cut, every 4-6 weeks thereafter.
Red Clover, Crimson Clover – Early bloom to ½ bloom.
Wheat, Rye, Ryegrass – Boot to early head stage.
Oats, Barley, White Clover – Cut at correct stage for companion grass.
Sudangrass, Sorghum Hybrids, Pearl Millet, Johnsongrass – 40-inch height or early boot stage, whichever comes first.
Bermudagrass – 15- to 18-inch height for first cutting, every four weeks thereafter.

For more information about stage maturity and high-quality hay, contact your nearest Stockdale’s store or visit