There’s a sound economic reason why Daddy taught you not to drive out across the hay field, and if you had to, follow the same path.

According to Bruce Anderson, University of Nebraska Extension forage specialist, “Studies have shown that when fields are dry, plants driven on before re-growth yield about 5-7% less at next cutting. It gets much worse if you wait to remove bales. Just seven days after cutting, when re-growth shoots had started to grow, yield was reduced more than 25%, and fewer of these plants survived.

“And worse yet is removing bales when fields are wet. Then wheel traffic causes much more compaction. When this happens, yield loss typically exceeds 30%.”

Between yields reduced by wheel traffic and the potential killing of plants beneath bales left for a week or two, Anderson emphasizes removing hay bales from the field as quickly as possible if further cuttings are planned for the season.

“Hay fields must be driven on, of course, to remove bales after harvest,” Anderson says. “But you can lessen damage by controlling where, when and how often you drive.”