Cattle Feeding: Let’s Talk Hay

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Wouldn’t it be nice if you didn’t have to worry about hay for your cattle? Realistically though we do need to be ready to have some hay available for those bad weather spells when the pasture is covered with ice or non-existent due to drought. I admire cattle raisers who feed hay less than 30 days a year. Even if you only feed it 60 days, that’s pretty good.

Do you buy your hay or raise it? If you’re new to the business we feel buying the best hay you can is the best road to follow. However, if you already have hay equipment and you and your family just love to make hay, then do it but try to put up the best quality you can. There is an art to making hay, some have it, some don’t.

Weather and extenuating circumstances can mess up the best hay making plans. That’s why buying hay and grazing more cattle can be economically worthwhile.

I’ve heard extension specialists say, ever since I started working for the University, that one-half of the hay made in Missouri never gets into an animal. That seems like such a waste. Rob Kallenbach, state forage specialist made that very comment last month in a talk he gave at Bolivar. He added that stockpiling fescue is about one-third as expensive as hay feeding is. He said that it costs between $1 and $1.50 per day to feed hay to a cow.

Another point Rob drove home was the feeding techniques we see as we visit farms in the winter. We all know cattle routinely go for the hay in the center of the bale so apparently they feel it’s best. Unfortunately, all the cows in a herd can’t get around a big round bale and eat the highest quality hay. Some of the timid cows will end up having to “eat feathers while the aggressive ones will eat chicken.” This is one reason unrolling a bale has advantages. Sorting cows will also help equalize the intake problem. All you can do is try your very best to minimize waste and keep your hay costs down.

Source: Eldon Cole, University of Missouri Extension



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