Forage Focus: Evaluate Hay Storage and Feeding Procedures
The methods of storing and feeding hay can have a great impact on the winter feed bill and the profitability of cow-calf operations. Now, in the midst of winter feeding, would be a good time to evaluate the hay storage procedure used last spring and summer and the feeding practices carried out this winter. (see following article) Both impact the volume of hay available as well as the cost of winter feeding.
Hay is the primary winter feed for Tennessee cowcalf operations. Approximately 91 percent of the hay fed to beef herds is harvested and stored in large round bales.
Eighty two percent of Tennessee’s cow-calf producers store these large bales outside, uncovered, on the ground. Exposure to weather and moisture from the ground result in a large amount wasted or rotted hay that is not suitable to meet the cattle’s nutrient needs.
Research conducted at the University of Tennessee showed that large round bales stored outside, uncovered, on the ground had dry matter losses of 28 percent. Similar research at other experiment stations reported losses up to 35 percent. This is a lot of hay lost.