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Right hay for cattle

Darrell Busby, Beef Specialist at Iowa State University, gives us the low-down on how to get the best hay for cattle.

Right hay for cattle

Cattle need a lot of hay to keep their energy and weight up during the winter, and it can cost a bundle. Improve the cost of feeding cattle by matching nutrient needs.

Radio interview source: Darrell Busby, Beef Specialist, Iowa State University Extension

Listen here to the radio mp3

Size and spoilage

Cattle need a lot of hay to keep their energy and weight up during the winter. Alfalfa hay is tops in nutrition for beef cattle, but it's also the most expensive to purchase. Iowa State University Extension beef specialist, Darrell Busby, advises buying the expensive hay when the cattle require it most. The nutritional quality needed depends on where they are in production, especially when females are nursing a young calf.

"You want your best hay in early lactation, your second-best hay the last 50 days prior to calving, and your lower quality or damaged hay in mid-gestation," says Busby.

Compared to horses, cattle are pretty tolerant of dust and mold in their hay and can stand low quality. But if they're forced to eat very low-quality hay, you might see some health problems down the road. "The molds and stuff have used up a lot of the energies, so cattle begin to lose weight, they lose thirstiness, and they also don't want to eat that product," says Busby. "And then if you force them to eat it, they may become ill."

Serving it Up

In most areas of the country, feeding cattle with large round bales is the economical way to go. If you put out a one-day supply for the herd in a feeding ring or rack, you'll only have around 5% wastage. If you put out a four-day supply with no rack around it, the cattle will waste about a third of the hay. If you like to roll hay out so it's loose on the ground, just make sure that you only roll out what they can eat in one day.

Small square bales are easier to store and handle, but Busby says because of the demand for them by horse owners and others, they're also more expensive.

Suggested websites:

Optimum Forage Use In Beef Cattle

 

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