The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Hay

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Edition of 1920. See also Hay on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

HAY, or FORAGE, the stems and leaves of grasses and other plants cut for fodder and dried in the sun. In haymaking the object of the farmer is to preserve the hay for winter use in the condition most nearly resembling the grass in its natural state. Of the various ingredients which compose grass, those portions which are immediately soluable in water are the most fitted for the purposes of nutrition; and therefore the mowing should be done when the plants contain the largest amount of sugar and other soluble matter. During the latter part of the process of fructification, when the seeds have arrived at maturity, the stem and leaves begin to decay; so that if the grass is not cut when in flower, a great amount of nutriment will be wasted. On the third day after mowing, if the weather is fine, the newly made hay will be ready for gathering into large windrows for carrying and stacking; but otherwise it will have to be put up into large cocks, and the carrying deferred until the next day. It is not desirahle that grass should be too rapidly made into hay under a burning sun, as it is liable to scorch and lose its nutritive value. Great care must also be taken to preserve the hay from dew and rain, as water washes away the soluble salts and other matters, and when in the stack will cause fermentation, which, if excessive, destroys some of the most valuable properties of the hay. Some farmers salt their hay in stacking; others do not. Salt is generally commended. A good plan, when the hay harvest has been accompanied by wet weather, is to place a few layers of straw in the stack at intervals to absorb the moisture from the heating hay. On large farms the spreading out of the hay after it is cut down is performed by a haymaking machine drawn by a horse, which will do the work of 12 or 15 haymakers, and distribute the grass more thinly and evenly as it crosses the field. It is only for the haymaking of the true grasses, however, that it is adapted, as clover must not be shaken so violently. To be transported to markets at a distance, hay is now compactly pressed into bales by presses worked by hand or power. In fact baled hay has increased the importance of haymaking, owing to the readiness with which it can he transported by rail or water. On the Pacific Coast, especially in California, hay cut from alfalfa is very productive and profitable, and three or more crops a year are frequently obtained. In the United States 61,691,166 acres of land were utilized in cultivating hay and forage in 1900, the entire crop amountiag to 84,011,299 tons, valued at $484,256,846.

The average value per acre of the hay and forage crop is $8, Included in the above estimate were 4,759,353 tons of cornstalks which were cut from fields cultivated mainly for the gjain. These figures for 1900 show an increase in area since 1889 of 8,742,369 acres, or 16.5 per cent, and in production of 12,420,466 tons or 18.6 per cent.

Of this total area, 6.7 per cent was devoted to clover, 50.7 per cent to tame and cultivated grasses other than clover, 6.3 per cent to grains cut green for hay, 5.l per cent to forage crops, 3.4 per cent to alfalfa or lucerne, 2.8 per cent to millet and Hungarian grasses, and 25.1 per cent to wild, salt and prairie grasses.

The North Central division contained 57.8 per cent of the total hay and forage acreage of the country, the North Atlantic 21.0 per cent, the Western 11.4 per cent, the South Atlantic 3.5 per cent and the South Central 6.3 per cent.

The rate of increase in area devoted to hay and forage since 1889 was greatest in the South Central division, being 103.0 per cent. The Western division shows an increase of 91.4 per cent, the South Atlantic of 12.2 per cent and the North Central of 10.7 per cent. The North Atlantic division shows a decrease of 2.2 per cent.

The total value of the hay and forage crop of 1900 averaged $135 per farm. The average yield per acre, exclusively of cornstalks, was 128 tons, and the average value per ton $6.11. The average yield per acre of the various classes was as follows: Forage crops, 2.62 tons; alfalfa or lucerne, 2.49 tons; millet and Hungarian grasses, 1.64 tons; grains cut green for hay, 1.28 tons; clover, 1.26 tons; tame grasses other than clover, 1.14 tons; and wild, salt and prairie grasses, 1.12 tons.