5 resources for testing your hay

5 resources for testing your hay

It was a beautiful weekend in South Dakota — perfect weather for our private treaty female sale. The sunshine and unseasonably warm temperatures are giving us a false sense of security that we are a long way away from the cold, snowy winter season that will soon be upon us. With our cows out on corn stalks and our weaned calves bellied up to the feed bunk, we are now busy winterizing the ranch and getting corrals set up for pregnancy-checking the herd this upcoming weekend.

With winterizing comes the need to take an inventory of available forages. Once we finished moving bales home from the fields this fall, we realized that we didn’t have enough to make it through winter and the spring calving season. As a result, we’ve been on the lookout at hay auctions, seeking the best quality hay for the best buy.

Last week’s poll on beefmagazine.com asked readers, “Do you test your hay for quality and nutritional content?” With 121 votes in, 50% said, “Yes, it helps us plan our winter supplementation strategy.” Another 45% said, “No, we don’t test our hay.” The remaining 6% said, “We don’t feed hay, so no need to test.”

Watch the latest BEEF Roundtable Video: What to do with all that rained-on hay

Photo Credit: USDA

We fall into the camp of not testing, although I believe it’s definitely something we should consider. Although our feed ration is closely calculated and rationed for our sale bulls and replacement heifers, we offer hay free choice to these calves, plus the herd bulls and cow herd. Granted, I imagine we could whittle down which nutrients are lacking or are in abundance by testing our hay; however, in our years of production, we just haven’t been motivated to test the hay yet.

For the 50% of folks who do test their hay, I’m sure the knowledge gained from which fields and which cutting impact the nutrient content of the bales are extremely useful.

If you’re on the fence about testing and want more information on the topic, here are 5 resources for testing hay:

1. Test your hay, and sleep better at night

2. There’s money in testing your stalks and hay

3. 6 factors to evaluate the nutrition in your forage supply

4. Home forage testing is critical

5. Test poor-quality forages for cattle feed

Do you test your hay? If so, what have been the benefits for you? If not? Why not? Are you concerned about the nutritional content of your hay? How do you strategically supplement? Share your thoughts in the comments section below. 

The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Penton Agriculture.

 

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