ASK Jeff: The Rodale Institute’s farm manager, Jeff Moyer, answers your hardcore farming questions

What hay mixture is best for my farm?

Posted May 11, 2007

What Jeff brings to the table

Jeff Moyer, who’s been the farm manager here at the 333-acre Rodale Institute research farm for more than a quarter of a century, receives lots of mail from farmers just like you asking for advice. Jeff’s hands-in-the-dirt experience over the past 26 years has run the gamut from refining the farm's cover cropping and crop rotation systems (including managing 270 acres in a rotation of corn, small grains, hay, and edible soy beans for a Japanese market) to overseeing The Rodale Institue Farming Systems Trial®, the world’s longest running side-by-side comparison of organic and conventional agriculture. We thought it would be fun and informative to share some of these farmer-to-farmer exchanges, and Jeff’s practical wisdom, with our readers … and we’ll be doing it on a regular basis.

Got a question of your own? Click here to send it to Jeff.

Dear Jeff,

I grew up on my grandparents’ farm and have recently become interested in farming again. My grandmother has agreed to let me farm 11 acres and I would like to plant hay. I am planning on using bin-run oats as a cover crop and was wondering what mixture of hay would be best to use (alfalfa, clover, timothy). I live in southeastern Michigan and wanted to get the hay in last fall but it was too wet. I am hoping to plant soon, so any advice you could give me would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks in advance,
Jason Otter


Dear Jason,

Glad to hear you are getting started in farming. As for your hay question, the species of plants you chose to seed for hay will depend on a lot of other pieces of information. You need to ask yourself how you will use the hay or who your potential customers will be for the hay. What is the condition of your soil in terms of pH, nutrient quality, drainage and other bits of data? It's hard to beat good-quality alfalfa or alfalfa/grass hay for price in the marketplace. Not knowing anything else about your operation and given the fact that you'll be planting in spring, I'd suggest alfalfa and orchard grass (timothy usually does better planted in the fall). The use of oats as a nurse crop should work fine for these hay crops.

Good luck, and let us know how things turn out.