I hope I am wrong, but it looks like we will be feeding hay soon. Incredibly that would mean a six month hay feeding season. Ugh. There has never been a better time to get our hay-feeding house in order. Here are few thoughts on that subject.
First, graze out all of your pastures, but don’t buzz them unless you are going to replant or renovate them. Don’t forget that you can strip graze any remaining forage on hayfields using temporary fence and water sources.
Test all of your hay. This is essential. The best way to not repeat last year’s train wreck of a winter-feeding season is to test your hay and feed accordingly. Send the sample to a certified lab (and your agent can help you find one of those, and most have hay probes for loan as well). UK has a very simple online tool to help find the right supplement for cow rations, and you can even enter the data on smartphone (I’ve done it!). It is called the UK Beef Cow Forage Supplement Tool (http://forage-supplement-tool.ca.uky.edu/).
Price out the supplements dictated by your hay quality. Ask your supplier if they can give a discount for booking early.
Weigh some of your bales to determine average bale weight. Cows will generally eat 2% of their body weight every day. So factor in a figure for wastage, and calculate your total hay needs.
See if you can reduce hay feeding losses. Using a hay feeder that has solid sheeting at the bottom will prevent cows from pulling hay out of the ring. Feeders of this kind dropped hay feeding losses from 20% to 5%.
Lastly, start now to secure more hay if needed. Anecdotal reports of prices paid for poor hay last March rival that of high quality western hay six months before. There are reputable professional hay brokers that can help you get your supply of hay topped off for this winter if needed.
There is still plenty you can do, including reducing storing losses, supplementing smarter, reducing feeding waste and even securing additional hay. But start with getting your hay tested. Really. It is that important. Happy foraging. ~ excerpted from Jimmy Henning, Farmers Pride, Nov. 2019