Test for Feed Value with CRP Hay
Given CRP has been released for haying and grazing in many areas of the state due to drought, how can you determine its value?
The biggest complicating factor is how much old residue from previous years is in the hay. This residue contains only 3-4% protein and maybe 40% TDN. The more residue in the hay, the lower its nutrient level and the less likely animals are going to want to eat it.
My best guess is that most brome or fescue-type CRP hay will be just a little worse than regular brome and fescue hay because most of these fields had relatively low amounts of residue. Brome and fescue harvested as hay in August or later, though, is very mature, so protein probably will be less than 9% and TDN barely over 50%.
Warm-season grass hay, like switchgrass or native mixtures, likely will suffer more from old residue. Protein might be only 5% and TDN about 50% if much residue is present. Of course, if the field was harvested last year or residue was burned off of these warm-season grass CRP fields this spring, the hay quality will be better, probably around 7-8% protein and 50-55% TDN. And most important of all, your animals will eat it much better. These numbers are general estimates and may not be applicable to your fields.
This year, more than ever, get a forage test of hay quality to learn exactly what you have to feed. Then you can design proper feeding and supplement programs to use this hay effectively.
CRP hay can be a very useful feed. But since it's difficult to predict its feeding value, forage test to know what you have.