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Stop wasting hay

Agriculture.com Staff 02/07/2016 @ 5:55pm

Improving the way you store and feed hay can cut your cost of overwintering beef cows.

"According to Standardized Performance Analysis records, feed costs account for more than 60% of beef producers' annual cow costs," says Ted Cunningham, Extension livestock specialist for the University of Missouri.

"More than half of these costs can be attributed to expenditures for winter feed," he adds.

If the cows are in good condition, hay is of adequate quality, and the winter is not too severe, restricting cows' access to hay has the potential to reduce waste and costs, according to Cunningham's research done at the University of Illinois.

Other factors also contribute to waste during a typical nine-month storage period, says Justin Sexten, Extension beef nutritionist at the University of Missouri. He lists the following storage methods and likely impact on feed quality:

  • Uncovered bales stored on the ground stand to lose five to 20% in dry matter.
  • When elevated slightly, uncovered bales lose three to 15% of dry matter.
  • If bales remain on the ground but are covered, losses in dry matter range from 5% to 10%.
  • When stored under a roof, dry-matter losses are from two to five percent.

Improving the way you store and feed hay can cut your cost of overwintering beef cows.

  • Consider bale size
    "When comparing two bales with an equal spoilage depth of five inches," he says, "a four-foot-diameter bale will experience 40% greater dry-matter losses than a six-foot bale. It's simply due to a greater percentage of the smaller bale contained in the surface layers."

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