Grown with Love: How We Time Cutting Hay to Capture the Optimal Nutritional Value

Hello, Fans of Furry Friends!

Welcome to the second installment of the Grown with Love series, where we walk  you on a multi-week journey from farm to feeder and show you how we make hay while the sun shines.

In this post, we will talk about how we time our cutting to capture the optimal nutritional value, the first step in turning fresh grass into delicious hay.

Cutting hay is a delicate process that requires careful timing and precision. We have to consider factors such as weather, moisture level, maturity stage, and length of cut. We use modern equipment that can cut large swathes of grass quickly and evenly. But we don’t just cut our grass whenever we feel like it. We cut our grass when it has reached its peak nutritional value and before it starts to decline.

Timothy hay is a cool-season perennial grass that grows well in temperate regions. It is highly palatable and digestible for small pets and provides a good source of fiber and protein. To cut timothy hay farmers typically follow these guidelines:

  • Cut at 70 to 80 days after planting with one or two subsequent cuttings during the initial growing season.
  • Harvest hay before more than half the plants have formed flowers.
  • Do not harvest down to the basal leaves, which will fuel the next generation of growth.
  • After the first harvest, the plant is ready to be collected again in 30 to 45 days.

In the Pacific Northwest, timothy hay is usually cut in late May or early June for the first cutting, and then again in late July or August for the second cutting
. The weather can be unpredictable, so we have to watch for dry spells and rain forecasts. We use a mower-conditioner to cut and condition the hay in one pass. This machine has a disc cutterbar that slices through the grass and a roller or flail conditioner that crimps or bruises the stems to speed up drying.

Alfalfa hay is a legume that is rich in protein, calcium, and vitamins. It is ideal for young, pregnant, or lactating small pets, as well as those who need extra nutrition. To cut alfalfa hay, we typically follow this process.

  • Cut alfalfa no later than the early-bloom stage, which is the ideal maturity for yield and quality.
  • The first cutting should be around May 20-25, and the subsequent cuttings should be 28 to 55 days apart, depending on the season.
  • Cut alfalfa in the morning, leaving 1 to 2 inches of stubble, and condition it to speed up drying.
  • Avoid cutting alfalfa during extended periods of dry weather or late fall.

In the Pacific Northwest, alfalfa hay is usually cut three to four times per year.

The first cutting is often delayed by wet weather and can be challenging to dry. The second and third cuttings are usually easier to manage and have higher quality. The fourth cutting is optional and depends on the weather and market conditions. We use a disc mower to cut alfalfa hay. This machine has a series of rotating discs with knives that cut through the crop cleanly and smoothly.

As you can see, cutting hay is both an art and science. Fortunately, the team at Anderson Hay has generations of experience, which is how we are able to grow and procure the top 1% of hay in the region.  Quality matters to you, it matters to us and most importantly it matters to your furry little pals.

In the next post, we will talk about how we rake and cure our hay to prevent spoilage and preserve quality.

Don’t forget to visit to enter the giveaway and win a year supply of hay for your small pets.


Jared is a curious creature seeking to curate creative collections through crafty language without the use of awful alliteration.

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