Winter is here which means it is hay feeding season

Friday, December 1, 2017

Winter is here which means it is hay feeding season. For livestock producers, 60-80% of the cost of raising and caring for livestock is the feed bill and winter is the most expensive portion of the year. Colder temperature and wet conditions make it harder for livestock to maintain the body condition that is so important when those animals are set to give birth, breed back or go to market. Here are some quick tips to consider to make hay feeding successful.

Choose a well-drained area for feeding hay. Donít feed near creeks or under trees. These areas are cooler and wetter and livestock have to eat more to maintain body heat. Move feeders every few days to keep livestock out of the mud and to help spread manure around the field. Consider feeding hay in lower fertility areas.

Use a feeding method that reduces waste but allows for adequate feed intake. Use a feeder of some kind. Open access will result in over 50% waste. Using hay rings, cone feeders, etc. can reduce waste down to 10%. If unrolling hay, only roll out what the herd will eat in 2 days or less. Unrolling hay allows naÔve animals a more equal chance at feed but if too much is given at one time can result in a lot of wasted hay.

Separate animals into groups based on production stage. Separate young, growing animals going to market away from older animals. Growing animals have greater protein and energy demands. Separate lactating females from dry females. Lactating females have intake and nutrient demands 30% or more higher than dry females. Additional replacement females need to be separated from older females to ensure they donít have to fight with older animals for feed.

Sample your hay and get a forage analysis. A forage analysis can give you a value on protein, energy and the minerals that is contained in that hay. These are numbers that you can use to determine if one hay is better to give to a particular class of animal or if supplement will need to be provided with that hay.

Hay has a fertilizer value either from the fertilizer that you applied to the crop or what you have brought in with bought hay. A ton of average fescue or mixed grass hay contains 14 lbs of nitrogen, 6 lbs of phosphate and 34 lbs of potash. The fertilizer value of such hay equals roughly $18. It may be worthwhile to pick poorer fertility areas (broomsedge or sagegrass areas) to feed hay.

Sheep and goats (if at all possible) should be fed hay off of the ground. Sheep and goats are more susceptible to parasites that are picked up from the ground. Keep feeders clean. Also donít feed hay in low or wet areas. These areas may become a source for foot problems.

Horses have special needs when it comes to hay. Hay should be checked for mold, particularly large, round rolls. Horses have been known to colic on such hay. Additionally, alfalfa hay should be checked for blister beetles. Blister beetles secrete a chemical called cantharidin that can cause ulceration and inflammation of the mouth, stomach and intestines

Clean water should be available in adequate amounts and access. Hay is a dry feed containing less than 20% moisture. A dry feed, such as hay, slows the digestion process and therefore, water is critical in keeping the digestion system working correctly.

Hopefully, with these tips your hay feeding season will go smoothly and efficiently. Remember ďsmall changes can make big differences.Ē