Winter feeding hay is a necessity on many beef cattle farms. During the winter, feeding hay in a sacrifice lot can reduce the negative impact on soil structure and plant persistency to a defined area. However, the use of a sacrifice lot also concentrates nutrient deposition from wasted hay, urine and feces in these areas that often have no forage that can benefit from these nutrients the following growing season.
Bale grazing allows for a more uniform distribution of these nutrients on pasture areas. The process involves placing hay bales in a field in an organized fashion. Temporary fencing is used to provide access to a row of hay bales while preventing contact to the other bales until they are fed. Using hay rings is not required, but using rings will minimize the amount of hay loss. This systematic feeding of hay placed within a large area of the field distributes the nutrients from hay waste and animal excrement more uniformly. This method of feeding will improve subsequent pasture and hay production through increased nutrient recycling and lower the purchased fertilizer needs.
The use of bale grazing is more suitable in climates that are very cold allowing for the ground to freeze or the western U.S. where less winter precipitation reduces soil compaction and muddy conditions. Currently though, we have a few operations implementing this practice within Kentucky. You can learn more about one producer’s experience by watching the following video https://youtu.be/lAzktSfF4N8
~ Dr. Jeff Lehmkuhler