Ready or not, hay-feeding season is fast approaching. The time to prepare is now, before temperatures plummet and the snow flies. A few basic steps can help you ease feeding and make the most of this important feedstuff.
A wet spring across many areas tested even the most experienced haymakers. Those conditions produced an abundance of lower-quality hay.
University of Illinois Extension specialists offer several recommendations for feeding poor-quality hay, including:1
- Inspect the hay for mold, weeds, rank stems — factors that likely will reduce intake.
- Diversify your rations to help dilute feeding contaminated hay.
- Supplement to balance the reduced feed value of lower-quality hay.
Sampling and testing your hay is the only way to truly know your hay’s nutritive value. That knowledge can help you make the best use of your feed. For example, North Dakota State University Extension specialists recommend matching hay quality to your cattle’s production stage.2 NDSU also offers how-to advice on properly sampling and testing your hay. Once you’ve bagged your samples, check out the National Forage Testing Association’s list of certified labs.
Reduce storage losses. Reducing waste is one of the best ways to hold down feed costs. As you move hay home from fields or as purchased hay is delivered, consider how you store or position it for winter feeding. Obviously, outside-stored hay suffers the greatest losses — as high as 35 percent for round bales, depending on precipitation.3 Evaluate economical options for covered hay storage. Protecting your hay crop may pencil out easier than you think. Target available indoor storage toward your highest-quality hay. If you must store hay outside, use well-drained sites, allow a minimum of 3 feet between bale rows, stay away from trees and other shady areas, and feed outdoor-stored hay first.
If, as you feed your way through this year’s hay crop, you decide it’s time to upgrade your hay equipment, consider how the latest technology from Case IH can help you put up better bales next year. If it’s your hay feeding and handling equipment that needs an upgrade, talk with your Case IH dealer about our full line of tough, powerful and resourceful tractors and feeding equipment. Each piece is designed to help you cover a wide range of jobs across your operation.
Winter is a critical time in the livestock production cycle. Breeding stock must maintain or increase body condition. Proper nutrition helps animals weather tough conditions. High-quality hay is an important component in least-cost feeding programs. Be sure to give it the attention it deserves.