Establishment of Timothy Hay for Export

Selecting a Field

Timothy is a perennial, bunch-type grass. It is adapted to a wide range of soils but does best under cool, moist conditions. Well-drained clays or clay loam soils are ideal, but because the crop is fairly tolerant to flooding, it also does well on poorly drained or peaty areas. Timothy has excellent winter hardiness.

Production Tips

  • Good weed control is essential prior to seeding timothy. This is important because forage exports to Asia must be free of the Hessian fly, and any of it's host plants. These include wheat, barley, rye, quackgrass, and the wheat grasses. Preharvest Roundup prior to seeding is useful in controlling perennial weeds, especially quackgrass.  
  • Seed 2 lbs of timothy/acre into a firm, moist seed bed, no deeper than 1/2".  
  • If using a nurse crop, use one that is least likely to lodge or could be harvested early as silage or greenfeed. Reduce the nurse crop seeding rate by at least 30% and reduce nitrogen fertilizer application to minimize competition.  
  • Research has shown that removing the cover crop as greenfeed results in higher timothy yields. Removing the nurse crop as greenfeed will result in 15% more timothy forage production over 4 years of production than if one allowed the extra competition that would result in combining it. Straw from a nurse crop grown for grain should be baled off the field.  
  • Keep past and future herbicide usage in mind when establishing timothy. Consider possible herbicide residues that may affect the crop. Also, consider which nurse crop to use. Using canola as a nurse crop severely limits herbicide options.


  • To date, the variety Climax has been very popular, and has produced good yields of good quality forage. Producers planting significant acreages are seeding later maturing varieties to spread out the window of harvest. Another suggestion to maintain the green in a timothy stand would be to seed a mixture of a medium maturing variety of timothy with a later maturing variety.  
  • Some producers seed foundation timothy seed. This allows them to harvest certified timothy seed if haying is impeded by poor weather.


  • A soil test is recommended especially in the establishment year. The table below indicates the amount of fertilizer a timothy crop will use per ton of dry matter.

Nutrient Removal/Ton of Timothy Dry Matter Forage

Nutrient Amount Removed (lb/ton)*
Nitrogen (N) 35.0
Phosphorus (P) 4.0
Phosphate (P2O5) 10.0
Potassium (K) 50.0
Potash (K2O) 40.0
Calcium (Ca) 7.0
Magnesium (Mg) 5.0
Sulphur (S) 5.0
Boron (B) 0.08
Copper (Cu) 0.01
Iron (Fe) 0.3
Manganese (Mn) 0.1
Molybdenum (Mo) 0.002
Zinc (Zn) 0.05

* amounts of removal are approximate and vary depending on growing season conditions

Producers that have been in the business for a long time will fertilize for hay quality and not necessarily for maximum tonnage. Urea (46-0-0) is the most commonly used N source. Transfeeder Inc. of Olds, Alberta uses the following N rates:

  • Year 1 - 45 lbs. actual nitrogen
  • Year 2 - 50 lbs.
  • Year 3 - 55 lbs.
  • Year 4 - 50 lbs.

Using higher N rates can result in lodging and increased browning of bottom leaves. Phosphorus, potash and sulphur are also key nutrients, however, levels should be determined by a soil test. A common practice in Alberta is to "bank" their phosphorus. They apply high levels of phosphorus in the year of establishment so it can be incorporated in the soil. This is NOT recommended in Manitoba because of differences in our soils, however, some producers in Manitoba have had good results in banking phosphorus provided it was banded. Manitoba soils have the capability of tying up phosphorus. Annual applications are therefore recommended.