Feed hay wisely this winter by planning ahead to use selected stacks or bales for specific livestock, advises Bruce Anderson, professor of agronomy at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. In other words, feed certain quality of hay to your animals according to their nutrient needs. 

“We know that dry, mature cows in good condition can get by on pretty low-quality forage,” says Dr. Anderson. “In contrast, young stock need better feed in order to grow. And after heifers drop their first calf, they need very good-quality feed to maintain growth, to milk well and to rebreed.”

One way to provide additional protein and energy those animals need is with purchased supplements, which can be expensive. Another way is to know and identify hay bales that are of higher quality that can meet those nutrient needs. To do that, first forage test your hay to determine the nutrient values. Then store good hay separate from lower-quality hay. Make sure you can get to each type of hay when you need it. “You’ll have well-fed animals with less supplementation,” says Dr. Anderson.