For most area cattlemen, hay feeding time is just around the corner. When supplementing cattle with hay it is important to know the quality of the hay you are feeding and the nutritional requirements of the livestock consuming the hay. Winter supplementation and hay production are significant production costs for Wise County beef producers, especially due to the increased hay costs due to the drought. If your eye is on profitability, you should pay close attention to a cow’s body condition, forage (hay) quality and winter protein supplementation expenses. Forage quality has a major influence on the type and amount of supplement required to meet a cow’s daily requirements.
The continued drought conditions in June, July, and early August robbed many Wise County hay growers of at least one hay cutting and in some cases negatively impacted hay quality. Though appearance and production history can provide some indication of quality, the only way to be certain is a laboratory analysis of your hay samples. Random forage samples should be obtained that represent all harvest dates and all fields. Use a probe inserted into the bale from the curved side of the bale. Ten per cent should be sampled to obtain a composite sample. Classifying hay based on its nutritive value would help you as a producer to know the class of livestock for which a particular lot of hay is suited. For example a beef cow needs a minimum of 7% crude protein in her diet, while a broodmare needs at least 10% crude protein.
From what I’m hearing prices for 20% breeder cubes could get very expensive this fall and these have been a common source for supplementing with marginal quality hay during the winter months. Producers will need to pay close attention to protein sources and costs thru fall & winter.
If you are interested in having your hay tested, we have a hay probe and forage testing information here at the Extension office. By testing now, you have plenty of time to adjust your winter feeding plans.