Determine hay needs now


It’s that time of year to evaluate your hay inventory.  There are only three things you need to know to assess your winter feeding needs.  The producer needs to know the number of animal units to be fed, the length of the feeding period, and the average weight of your bales of hay. 

Animal units are determined by considering the age class of the animal.  A mature cow or bull is considered one animal unit.  Yearling cattle are considered ½ animal units.  Calves are measured at ¼ animal units.  Use these conversions to determine total number of animal units to be fed.

The producer will then need to estimate the number of feeding days.  The number of feeding days will be different for every producer.  Feeding days will vary based on many factors like stocking rate, forage quality, nutrient availability and of course, weather!

The last factor is to know the average weight of your hay.  Remember: Just because most people think that large round bales weigh a thousand pounds doesn’t make it so!  Many times, so-called thousand pound bales only weigh 700 to 800 pounds.  Round bales stored outside may have substantial losses during storage and feeding.  Adjust your estimate accordingly.

Figure each animal unit will eat 30 to 40 pounds of hay per day, assuming average to good quality of hay.  To determine overall hay needs, multiply animal units x feeding days x amount of forage per day.  This will give total pounds of hay needed.  Divide total weight by the average weight of your large bales to determine number of bales needed.  If you have enough hay, rest easy!  If it is apparent that feed supplies will be inadequate, you should begin examining management options and feed alternatives to most efficiently maintain the cattle operation.


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