Will Hehemann | School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences
(U from A System Division of Agriculture photo by Lauren Husband)
When pet owners buy hay, they usually think about how many tons it will take to feed their cattle in the winter, said Dr. David Fernandez, livestock specialist and interim dean of graduate studies at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff. Few producers think of hay in terms of the pounds of nutrients that hay will provide.
“Some producers may think that making sure that their animals have something to eat is good enough – that everything is enough,” he said. “But you’re not going to meet your animals’ nutritional needs by giving them 33 pounds of pine straw a day.”
Get a hay analysis
The key for producers to know how many nutrients they are buying is to examine their hay. Today tests are easy. Simply take a core sample from several of your bales with a hay probe. County Extension offices in Arkansas can provide hay probes.
When collecting hay for testing, keep the following tips in mind:
- Gather about a quarter-size bag full of hay for filing.
- The hay should come from more than one bale.
- Keep the sample out of the sun so that the food in the sample is not bleached or “cooked” on the dashboard.
- Take the sample to your local expansion office and request a hay analysis. The cost of the analysis is $ 18.
For more information on testing your hay, contact a local Extension Agent for the publication “FSA 3114: Testing Hay for Nutritional Composition Before Feeding” by Dr. Shane Gadberry and Mark Keaton.
Interpretation of the results
Analysis shows how many pounds of nutrients are in each ton of hay. Producers must interpret the results taking into account the nutritional needs of their individual animals to determine whether they have purchased enough nutrients.
Dr. Fernandez said producers are usually most concerned with total digestible nutrients (TDN), a measure of energy in feed and crude protein (CP). A 1,100 pound pregnant cow needs about 11 pounds of TDN and 1.5 pounds of CP per day.
“Suppose your hay analysis comes back and your hay is 60% TDN and 9% CP. In this case, if your cow eats about 25 pounds of hay every day, your cow will get 13.2 pounds of TDN and 1.98 pounds of CP, ”he said. “Your hay will do more than meet your needs.”
But what if your hay analysis comes back with 45% TDN and 6% CP? The cow is only getting 9.9 pounds of TDN and 1.32 pounds of CP – not enough to meet her needs.
“You may have paid the same amount of money for every ton of hay, but in the second example you clearly didn’t buy that many nutrients,” said Dr. Fernandez.
“If you are feeding poor quality hay, as in the second example, you will need to supplement your cattle with grain, pellets or cubes,” said Dr. Fernandez. “A cow consuming this hay requires 1.1 pounds of TDN and a quarter of a pound of CP to meet her needs.”
To learn more about how to replace hay with dietary supplements, contact a local advisor for publication “FSA 3036: Replacing Hay With Grains In Beef Cattle Diets” by Dr. Shane Gadberry and Dr. Paul Beck.
Other ways to cut winter feeding bills
To save on feeding costs, producers who have planted yearbooks in the fall for the cool season can supplement their animals’ diet with these pastures that can be used in early winter, said Dr. Fernandez. Cool season annuals are very nutritious.
“Using stacked forage and cool season yearbooks can significantly reduce your feed costs and improve the quality of your animals’ diet, reduce costs and improve performance,” he said. “As soon as the stored feed is gone, you can take your animals to the annual pasture during the cool season. The biggest advantage of annuals in the cool season is in early spring when they grow quickly and provide plenty of high quality forage before your grasses break for the warm season. “
Dr. Fernandez said livestock can become excessively fat if given continuous access to high quality annual cool season pastures.
“You may need to restrict access to pasture and provide lower quality hay to fill with, he said. “Once the weather warms up and your warm season grasses are ready to grow, you must mow, spray, or graze the cool season annuals so your warm season grasses can grow.”
For more information on this or other livestock topics, please contact Dr. Fernandez at (870) 575-8316 or [email protected].
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