Much expense and many long hours go into harvesting and storing hay for winter feeding. So why waste it! Reducing hay feeding waste could be especially important in 2019 since quality hay supplies are limited.
Cattle can waste as much as 45 percent of their hay when it is fed in the open without restrictions. How can you reduce these losses to minimize costs and maintain an adequate hay supply?
Your first step should be to limit how much hay is available. Research shows that it takes 25% more hay when you feed cattle a four-day supply at once compared to feeding them every day. Daily feeding reduces the amount of hay refused, trampled, fouled, over-consumed, or used for bedding.
A second step is to restrict access to the hay by using hay racks, bale rings, electric fences, feed bunks, or anything else that will keep animals off the hay. Use racks or bale rings with solid barriers at the bottom to prevent livestock from pulling hay loose and then dragging it out to be stepped on.
If you do feed hay on the ground, either as loose hay, unrolled round bales, or as ground hay, it is especially important to follow these guidelines. Limit the hay fed to an amount animals will clean up in a single meal. Anything left over will be stepped on, fouled, or used for bedding instead of as feed. And if you can – use an electric wire or other barrier to restrict access to only one side.
With a little foresight and careful management, you can stretch your hay and your hay dollars further. ~ Tom Keene