Growing oaten hay on frost-prone paddocks

Page last updated: Thursday, 5 October 2017 - 1:45pm

Please note: This content may be out of date and is currently under review.

Growing oaten hay on frost-prone paddocks minimises the frost risk as it is cut soon after flowering, avoiding the frost-sensitive period. If severe frost damage does occur to other crops, baling them for hay may reduce economic loss. Oats are much more tolerant than other cereals to frost events that occur during vegetative growth and flowering.


  • Growing hay is a capital-intensive enterprise.
  • Hay is a high-risk enterprise as time of cutting and baling is critical for maintaining hay quality.
  • Late spring rains, which benefit grain crops, can be detrimental to hay quality and ultimately returns.
  • Transport can be expensive, depending on your location.
  • The price of hay is highly volatile and depends on supply and quality each season.
  • Hay removes large quantities of nutrients, particularly potassium, that need to be replenished for the following crop, increasing input costs.


  • Oats are generally more frost tolerant than wheat and barley so the likelihood of frost damage is reduced.
  • Farm enterprises (and risk) become more diversified.
  • Frost-prone paddocks usually have highly-productive soils in frost-free seasons and growing hay capitalises on the production potential while minimising frost risk.
  • Oaten hay povides a break crop to manage weeds.

Management options

Sow oats in frost-prone paddocks with the expectation that frost damage will occur if a severe frost event is experienced after ear emergence.

Sustainability and off-site impacts

Potassium removal: Hay crops remove greater amounts of potassium (about 10 kilograms per tonne) than other cereals harvested for grain. If potassium deficiency is diagnosed in a crop, applying 40-80 kilograms per hectare as muriate of potash near seeding may give an economic yield increase if applied early enough.


  • Malik R, Parsons C and McLarty A (2010) Growing oats in Western Australia for hay and grain. Bulletin, no. 4798. Department of Agriculture and Food, Western Australia.
  • Rebbeck M and Knell G (2009) Early season planning to minimise frost risk, Ground Cover Issue 79, March-April 2009. Grains Research and Development Corporation, Canberra.
  • Rebbeck MA, Knell G (2007) 'Managing frost risk: a guide for southern Australian grains', Ed. Reuter D. Grains Research and Development Corporation, South Australian Research and Development Institute, Adelaide.