This spring’s weather made hay making a challenge. Some hay was put up in the stretch of good weather of May, but most hay was cut late due to the constant June rains. This has led to some interesting forage hay analyses.

The wet spring allowed for good growth of both grasses and legumes. Often red clover growth lags a bit behind our fescue and other grasses in the spring. With the delayed hay harvesting, the grasses were past their prime from a quality point, but this also allowed for greater legume content in these mixed stands.

This has resulted in an interesting year when looking at the forage tests. Crude protein levels are either high if there was substantial legume content or very low for mature pure grass stands. In mixed stands, the crude protein levels are coming in above what I have seen the past couple years, but the mature grass in these mixtures has also led to high fiber and lower energy values. 

If one makes the mistake of just looking at the protein level and it being in the 10-12% range, a false sense of security is had when one assumes this is good hay based on the protein alone. Many of these samples are low in energy (TDN/NEm) and may not meet the nutritional needs of the beef cow or growing calf without energy supplementation. These legume-grass mixed hays with good protein content with low energy will benefit most from energy, not more protein.

Sample your hay this year and find out what nutrients are in the hay for this winter. Then work with your nutritionist or Extension agent to develop a strategic supplement program for your forages. Above is a chart showing ~ 110 forage samples form the Eastern Kentucky Hay contest this year. You can see the wide range in both protein and energy in these samples. Some were very good and many are marginal depending on the animal being fed. Feeder prices are still good, let’s use some of those funds to provide a good plane of nutrition for the cow herd to allow the cows to breed back early next calving season and wean you heavier calves.