Livestock producers are looking for a good stretch of warm, dry weather to get this year's hay crop in.

Livestock and Feed Extension Specialist Natasha Wilkie says as the forage matures, the quality decreases over time, while the quantity of the forage increases over time.

Ideally, producers are looking for that sweet spot when those two lines intersect, that's when you'll have your greatest quality with your highest yield.

She says if you're looking for a general rule of thumb, alfalfa quality is greatest in the early stages.

"So, when that leaf weight is more than the stem weight. What we know is that when that alfalfa just starts flowering, that's when the stem weight starts to be more than the leaf weight. When we talk about the X where that line intersects. For alfalfa, it's just after the bud stage but before the flower. And when we're talking about grasses, they say as soon as the plant starts to head out, that's when the protein and energy values start to decrease."

Producers will want to watch the weather forecast, and try to cut hay when they can expect several days of good dry, sunny weather so that it has time to cure in the swath.

Rain on cut hay can have a large impact on the plant quality as nutrients are leached out. 

Research shows that if hay is put into large round bales with a moisture level greater than 18%, then there is a potential for heating, mold and other microbial growth which can decrease nutritional quality.

After its baled producers will want to do what they can to keep it well-ventilated with adequate air circulation to prevent spoilage, and to keep it protected from the elements (like rain or wildlife) by using a tarp or cover for protection.