- 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.
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.