Dealing with low-quality hay

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Growing conditions in many parts of the country have been very good for producing large QUANTITIES of forage.  However, this summer’s warm temperatures and wet conditions have made producing high QUALITY hay difficult.

Grasses and legumes grow well under ideal conditions.   However, when temperatures are high and moisture levels are excessive, these plants grow rapidly and mature sooner.  Growth during these conditions results in high fiber content, low crude protein and low Non-Fiber Carbohydrate (NFC) content. This results in a very narrow harvest window for optimum quality.  During the 2010 growing season in most of the Midwest, it was very difficult to harvest hay in a timely manner due to frequent rainfall.  The hay was often very mature, rained on or baled “a little tough” at higher moisture than desired.  Hay baled “a little tough” can experience excessive heating that results in a portion of the crude protein and carbohydrate becoming unavailable.     

A recent survey of hays highlighted the need for proper supplementation this winter.   Samples of grass and mixed grass hay were collected from 16 beef herds in southeastern Iowa, northern Missouri and western Illinois.  A summary of nutrient analysis is included in Table 1.  Available protein was highly variable and 57% of hay sampled was less than 10% CP.  Total Digestible Nutrients (TDN) and Relative Feed Value (RFV) are indicators of energy content and hay quality.  In general, RFV and TDN were much lower than normal. As fiber content increases, the TDN and RFV decrease.  Non-Fiber Carbohydrate (NFC) is an indication of the more rapidly digestible carbohydrates such as sugars and starch.  Rumen microbes utilize NFC as a quick energy source as fiber is digested in the rumen.  Low quality hay often requires supplemental protein and smaller quantities of carbohydrate to enhance fiber digestion for optimal livestock performance. 

Table 1.   Summary of nutrient content of 16 Midwest grass and mixed hay samples.  

 

Crude Protein %

Available CP %

TDN %

NFC, % DM

Relative Feed Value

Minimum

5.72

5.19

50.31

9.61

58

Maximum

15.31

14.19

64.38

24.43

102

Average

10.73

9.69

58.90

19.03

84

Using a self-fed CRYSTALYX® brand supplement will provide a consistent source of high quality protein balanced with a readily available carbohydrate to optimize rumen fermentation. CRYSTALYX® offers a variety of supplement options to match your feeding situation.  The protein and carbohydrate is constantly available to rumen microbes, resulting in improved forage utilization and enhanced cattle productivity. Visit the CRYSTALYX website to learn more about CRYSTALYX® Brand Supplements and how they can enhance your feeding program.

For related information, visit the Supplementation and Nutrition featured section on CattleNetwork.com.

Source: Tim Clark, Animal Nutritionist, Ridley Block Operations

 



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