November 19, 2003 | By: Laura Skillman

With the cool days of November comes the need to prepare for feeding livestock through the winter. This year was not optimal for making hay so evaluating hay to determine its quality will enable farmers to ensure their cattle are receiving the proper nutrition.

“Spring hay was generally cut late and may be of poor quality,” said Roy Burris, beef specialist with the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture. “You must supplement as needed to keep cows in good body condition for strong healthy calves.”

Have your hay analyzed for nutritive quality and formulate a feeding program that provides adequate nutrition using hay and supplements.

“Remember that on an energy basis, corn and byproducts such as soyhulls may be a better buy than hay,” Burris said. “You might be better off basing your feeding program on the amount of hay you have available and purchasing extra nutrition in the form of concentrates.”

It also is important to inventory your hay supply, said Garry Lacefield, UK Extension forage specialist.  Farmers need to know how many cattle they plan to feed and for how many days. They also need to know the quality feed needed for different animal groups such as dry cows versus bred cattle.

Testing to determine quality of dry hay as well as haylage can be done by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture’s forage testing program. For a $10 fee, the KDA will send someone to your farm to sample your hay. For more information call 1-800-248-4628.

Reducing hay losses during feeding allows cattle to utilize the majority of hay rather than it being wasted. Hay losses can be the result of trampling, leaf shatter, chemical and physical deterioration, fecal contamination and refusal, Lacefield said.

Feeding losses in various research trials have ranged from less than 2 percent to more than 60 percent where no attempts were made to reduce loss, he said. Feeding losses of 3 to 6 percent are quite common and acceptable for most conservative feeding programs, although the lower levels are associated with feeding programs requiring high labor and daily feeding, he said.

To help reduce losses, Burris said producers should avoid feeding in areas of excessive mud. Hay feeding areas can be constructed by putting rock over geotextile fabric. There are cost share programs available to aid in feeding area construction as well as hay storage facilities.

Using hay rings with large round bales also can help reduce loss by keeping cattle from trampling and bedding down in the hay.

For more information on hay testing and feeding programs, contact a county office of the University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service.



Writer: Laura Skillman 270-365-7541 ext. 278
Sources: Roy Burris, 270-365-7541 ext. 208; Garry Lacefield, 270-365-7541 ext. 202