Bird-Friendly Hay

What Is Bird-Friendly Hay?

Bird-Friendly Hay is harvested after July 15, which is the approximate date when most grassland birds have finished nesting in Wisconsin.  

Most conventional hay has its first cutting in early June. This is in the middle of the breeding season and any birds nesting in the hay field suffer a complete loss when the hay is harvested. These birds don’t have enough time between subsequent cuttings to nest successfully.  

Hay that has its first cutting after July 15 allows for grassland birds to finish their nesting season successfully.


Frequently Asked Questions

Grassland birds and farming have a symbiotic relationship.  Each species has a unique set of habitat requirements, but they all rely on human disturbance – either grazing, fire, or cutting – to provide nesting habitat.  

Without this disturbance, woody vegetation would take over and grassland birds would have no place to nest.

Bird-Friendly Hay can be good for horses, dry dairy cows, and beef cows in the second trimester of gestation (and third trimester with some supplementation of crude protein).

While Bird-Friendly Hay isn’t for every application, it does have other advantages besides supporting our birds. It is more efficient from a harvest perspective. If you wait until July 15 to harvest, you will have a high yield compared to your inputs. The drying is also more dependable in July than in May or June, so it is easier to dry your hay for better storage.

The main disadvantage is that the hay has a different nutritional profile when it is harvested later. This can be mitigated by seeding your hay field with a seed mix designed for a later first cutting such as Jim Munsch’s Bird-Friendly Hay Recipe.

We are working on a Bird-Friendly Hay Certification so consumers can purchase hay and be sure that it was grown in a bird-friendly way. In the meantime, you can talk to your local hay farmers about cutting their hay on a bird-friendly schedule. 

We are also putting together a list of consumers and producers of Bird-Friendly Hay. Please use our contact form to let us know you are interested in purchasing Bird-Friendly Hay and we will try to match you with a producer in your area.

We sure can! We are putting together a list of consumers looking to purchase Bird-Friendly Hay. Send us a note here to connect with consumers or discuss our Bird-Friendly Hay Certification. Our protocol is farmer friendly and we welcome farmer feedback as we develop this market.