Growing Thyme for Hay
Answered by: Conrad Richter
Question from: Simon Ypperciel
Posted on: January 31, 2000

I would like to know which type of thyme I can plant directly in a freshly tilled field, because I would like to grow thyme as a finishing hay ration for lambs. I would like to grow it and harvest it as I would for regular hay or silage. I’d like to know what you think about a young farmer trying out new ideas

The hardiest variety and the one most likely to tolerate cutting is wild thyme (Thymus pulegioides). It is a low growing, creeping variety that would be difficult to cut. It can reach up to 25 cm high, but mostly it will be close to the ground. It could work for summer grazing for your animals, however.

In order to cut for silage you need some upright growth. The only variety with any upright growth is english thyme (Thymus vulgaris). It is not quite as vigorous a grower as wild thyme.

What do we think about your idea? We have never heard of anyone using thyme for silage, so we cannot say whether it would work. We have heard of using herbs for grazing pasture – herbs such as yarrow are excellent for this purpose. Compared to traditional forage crops such as alfalfa thyme is not a heavy producer of bulk material. If your purpose is to supplement a balance feeding program with some thyme hay, then your idea could make sense. If, however, you are hoping to use thyme as a primary silage material for your animals, we doubt that it will be satisfactory.

You will need to experiment with thyme hay to test whether your animals will like it. Then you need to establish whether you can harvest it efficiently. Again, we cannot say whether you would be successful or not.

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