Match Hay Harvest to Livestock Nutrient Needs

Match Hay Harvest to Livestock Nutrient Needs

May 23, 2008

Soon native meadows will start growing rapidly and bromegrass will be heading out. At the same time producers are in the midst of planting or fieldwork.

Some producers may plan to cut after cultivating or during the first or second corn irrigation. Others may harvest, based on plant growth stage, like full head.

Instead, this year try cutting your grass hay to match its nutrient content with the nutritional needs of your livestock. This wil utilize nutrients already available and minimize supplement costs. Grass hay loses protein and energy as plants become stemmy and get more mature As this happens, the types of livestock that can be fed that hay with few or no supplements become more limited.

For example, grass hay cut at early head often can support more than one pound of daily gain for pregnant yearling heifers. But if the same grass gets mature, it won't even maintain the weight of a mature cow without the use of some protein supplements.

Implementing a New Hay Cutting Strategy

First, plan what type of livestock will receive the grass hay from each field. Young livestock need high nutrient concentrations so cut that hay before or just when heads begin to emerge. With mature, dry cows, let the grass produce a bit more growth and cut after it is well headed out, but before seeds develop.

Matching your hay harvest with your plan of use can pay handsome dividends in lower costs and less supplementing.

Bruce Anderson
Extension Forage Specialist