Haytime 2020

Haytime and the mid summer summer hay cut, is the most significant event in a meadow's seasonal calendar.


haytime LH1

For a traditional meadow which is mown to provide fodder for livestock, a good haytime is crucial to securing the best yield and quality of hay to feed animals through winter. Even for wildlife meadows, where fodder is not required, mowing and taking off hay at the right time has a big effect on the future balance and diversity of the meadow plant community.

Timing of the summer hay cut

There are a number of conflicting factors that determine the best time for the main hay cut. Early cutting in late June usually secures best hay feed quality with optimum sugar and mineral content, but prematurely cuts short the flowering season and may disturb nesting birds.  For wildlife meadows, flowering, seeding and habitat are more important and mowing is best delayed until July and may continue into August. (see grassland management for more on this)

In our view, there is no one best time to mow. The best solution wherever possible to mow in sections at different times through the season from late June to the end of August. This staggered mowing schedule maximises variation and diversity across a site. This also spreads the workload over the summer making larger areas manageable even with simple equipment such as a scythe. (see scything)


Yellow rattle if present is a good guide as to when to start cutting. The seed pods of Yellow rattle have evolved to ripen and rattle out their seeds at haytime (hence its other popular name ‘hay rattle'). In traditionally managed old meadows, this usually occurs in July.


Posted on 21 June 2020,
Category: Advice