Time to Inventory Hay

Calculate your hay need for winter and test its quality before the grazing season ends.

by Dani Yokhna

Cows and hay
Courtesy Stock.XCHNG
Consult your local county extension services for help determining how much hay you’ll need to feed your livestock this winter.

Due to dry conditions, many livestock producers around the country are already into their winter feeding programs—some of which began as early as September. Farmers need to inventory their hay supplies now to ensure they have enough to last through the winter.

If you find you’re short on your hay supply, buying additional hay now can save you a lot of headaches later, says Tom Keene, hay marketing specialist with the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture.  

The good news in Kentucky, he says, is local forage producers had prime haymaking weather earlier this year and were able to get good yields because of adequate springtime moisture.

“During a normal season, we would have had a surplus of hay,” Keene said.

However, the timely rains diminished in July for some areas of the state and haven’t returned in significant amounts in most places since then. According to the most recent Kentucky Weekly Crop and Weather Report, about 90 percent of the state’s pastureland was rated either poor or very poor.

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“Even if we get some much-needed rain, it’s unlikely that pastures will recover enough to provide very many grazing days before cold weather sets in during December and January,” he says. “So those currently feeding hay will probably be doing so through March 2011.”

When calculating the need for additional hay, farmers should consider their current supply, how much hay they feed their livestock each day and feeding and storage losses. You can get assistance determining these calculations from your county extension agent for agriculture and natural resources.

If the calculations show a need for additional hay, go ahead and purchase some, Keene says.

“By buying hay now, producers will have a bigger selection of quality hay, be more likely to find hay close to home and in the packaging they want,” he says. “The longer it’s put off, the more trouble [farmers] will have meeting these criteria.”

To get the most out of current hay supplies, farmers should have their hay tested.

“Hay testing helps [farmers] feed the correct amount of hay with the right amount of supplements to meet their animals’ nutritional needs,” Keene says. “It can help [farmers] feed hay more economically and efficiently.”

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