With the weather finally taking a turn towards warmer days, many farm operators are turning their thoughts to cutting hay.
By: Rebecca Bott, SDSU Extension
Cattle need a substantial amount of forage to meet their nutrition needs and to aid in sustaining health. Now is the perfect time to take an accurate inventory of hay on hand and to invest in forages for the upcoming cold season.
To help narrow down the amount even further, an owner should determine how long they will prohibit grazing. A simple calculation with the average hay consumption, and estimated time utilizing hay, will give an indication of how much hay should be on hand. How much should we order per animal per year? How about getting enough for winter?
Additionally, farm managers must decide if square or round bales (large or small) are more appropriate for their operation. Storage space, feeding style and efficiency are factors that contribute to this decision.
The summer is a perfect time to also evaluate not only hay inventory, but also any hay storage space, or equipment used in feeding. Checking hay feeders for any damages and replacing any broken equipment makes for a well-rounded management practice. Analyzing indoor storage space for leaks or structural damage that could compromise hay quality and repairing them is a practice that will allow for better feed utilization. Precautions that can be taken to aid in eliminating chances of hay molding or rotting saves on costs. At this time, hay currently on site should also be examined for any mold or poor quality and the best disposal methods for the forage should be implemented.
When restocking a hay supply, creating a system for storing the forage according to usage enables better quality for feeding. At grocery stores products that expire at an earlier date are placed at the front in the order they are used first. A similar philosophy can be applied to our livestock feed sources. By storing hay in a system that allows for utilization of an older cutting first, and saving fresh cuttings for later use, we can assume less waste. Ideally, new hay should be stored separate from the older inventory. This allows easy access to both sources, and promotes safety practices. If new bales were not properly cut, cured, and made, they have potential to start fires. While analyzing hay inventory keeping a chart or record of all hay used and all hay purchased will aid in a well-rounded management practice. The date obtained, forage type, location obtained from, and storage method are all categories that should be included in the records.
Overall, hay is a very important feedstuff which provides a desirable balance of nutrients for our livestock. Establishing a routine in checking feed quality, inventory, and equipment, that pertains to feed usage benefits any management plan. Not only does this action help with cutting out costs, and preparing for unexpected events, but it also aids in overall animal health.