Smart hay conservation will help you make it through the winter. Value the hay crop you have.
To get the most out of your supply, don‚t waste it by providing more than your livestock can eat or more than they need. The general rule is between 1.5 percent and 2.5 percent of the animal’s body weight per day in total feed.
For horses fed alfalfa hay, throwing the hay on the ground makes the leaves shatter and the leaves contain the most nutrients. It is better to use a simple hay feeder which keeps hay off the ground and helps reduce waste.
You might consider hay cubes for horses. The larger cubes work well. Although more expensive, horses easily digest the cubes and they are an efficient feed.
For cattle and sheep, cone feeders seem to result in the least hay loss.
If you can grind hay with a device like a haybuster, and then fed out into “windrows,” it will tremendously reduce losses for cattle. Cover round hay bales with a tarp or store them in a barn to cut loss.
When feeding hay, whether it's in the fall or during the winter months, you should always have the Kentucky Department of Agriculture test hay before feeding it to horses. Then you can make an informed and economical decision about feeding supplements with the hay.
Once you receive the results from the hay test, you can then balance a suitable ration for livestock (dry cows, feeders, horses, etc.). To do otherwise, you may be simply throwing money away.
Some Kentucky-produced hay will meet all of the requirements cattle need for maintenance without need for supplementation.
If you do need to supplement, find the cheapest source that provides the necessary nutrients your livestock need. Make an economic decision based on feedstuff availability.
Kentucky had tremendous amounts of moisture early during the year and a phenomenal amount of hay was made in as a result. Without further rainfall this fall, hay could get scarce by late January through early March.
You should best calculate what your hay needs will be if you need to feed continuously from now until March.
After that, calculate the amount of hay you have on hand and accordingly make decisions about securing more hay.
For more information on having your hay tested and deciding how much hay you need contact Logan County Cooperative Extension Service.
Source: Bob Coleman, Extension Horse Specialist And Tom Keene, Extension Hay Specialist