Harvesting wheat as hay should be done much like any pasture grass would be harvested. Areas of concern with wheat, though, include maturity at harvest and its effect on both nutritional quality and physical characteristics such as the awns. As wheat matures, its feed value declines and its feed characteristics change. The more mature the grain becomes, the more the hay acts like a grain-plus-straw mixture. The starchy grain starts to inhibit rumen microbial digestion of the herbage portion, resulting in lower energy levels obtained from the hay than lab tests might suggest. Additionally, many wheat varieties have awns that stiffen as heads mature. These awns can cause discomfort or even injure animal mouths, thus lowering palatability and intake.
Cut wheat for hay while it is in the boot to very early head-emergence growth stage if the hay will be fed to calves or other livestock needing relatively high nutrient density for optimal performance. For dry beef cows, hay yield can be increased substantially by waiting until early milk stage of the grain. Harvesting of more mature wheat will increase risk of the awn problem discussed above and result in relatively low quality hay. Also, as grain level increase, rodents become more of a problem in the hay.