Hay Quality Indicators

Christine Gelley, AgNR Educator, Noble County, OSU Extension

The drastic swing in temperatures from one day to the next last week should remind us all that it truly is autumn and that winter is coming. The challenges of the 2019 forage production season continue to add up. With droughty conditions across the state for the past two months, what was too lush for too long, is now crunchy and brown. Some producers are already feeding hay to their livestock, some are hoping that the forage they have stockpiled for late-fall/winter grazing will pay off. Hopefully it will with a little rain.

We ended 2018 with the lowest stock of stored forages since 2012 and the fourth lowest in the past 70 years. I don’t think 2019 has been much help. Quality forage is in short supply and high demand. Which means all forage has increased in monetary value by the ton.

If you are a hay marketer, this sounds positive. The price is up and your input costs stay relatively flat year to year, factoring in land value, equipment, fuel, and labor. But, is it positive? Maybe, if you don’t need to keep any hay for yourself.

Let’s look at an example: Continue reading

What’s in your hay?

Ted Wiseman, OSU Extension, Perry County (originally published in The Ohio Cattleman)

I don’t think that anyone would be surprised if I stated that getting hay made this spring was a real struggle.  Spring arrived with beef cows in some of the poorest body conditions that we have seen in years.  It is possible for an animal to starve to death with hay in front of them every day all winter.

My intent in this article is to simply illustrate the importance of getting your hay tested this year and to work with a nutritionist to establish a feeding program. Forages analyzed from this year indicate that quality is going to be an issue again.  Many of the first cutting samples from this year have protein levels in the single digits and total digestible nutrient (TDN) levels, in the 30s and 40s.  To put this into perspective straw has a crude protein level around 4 percent and TDN levels between 25-55.  To make matters worse we have an extremely low supply of forages and straw this year.

The following three tables focus mainly on the energy levels in forages and at three different stages of beef cow production.   In this scenario we have a 1200-pound cow and keeping dry matter intake (DMI) constant at 2 percent.  At each TDN level for forages analyzed it shows how much hay, corn and soybean meal it would take to meet these requirements.  These tables equate to requirements of a beef cow at 9 months gestation (Table 1), at calving (Table 2) and at Continue reading

Feedbunk Management; Key to Animal Health and Performance

Steve Boyles, OSU Extension Beef Specialist (originally published in The Ohio Farmer)

A properly managed bunk impacts profitability of the feedyard!

Feedbunk management plays an important role in both animal performance and preventing acidosis in the feedyard.

A part of feedbunk management is estimating how much feed cattle will eat. Factors such as cattle size, weight, breed, ration-type, weather and health must be taken into account. Previous history of feed intake for a pen of cattle can help in estimations.

How much work do you want to put into gaining an estimate of how your steer or a group of cattle are eating? Estimates can be made prior to a morning feeding, if you are providing a morning feeding, with two additional observations made during the day. A common method is Continue reading

Mineral Supplementation: The Benefits You May Not See

– Caitlin Hebbert, Livestock Consultant (originally published by the Noble Research Institute, www.noble.org)

It’s no secret that good nutritional management is one of the most vital contributions to a profitable herd.

Within the realm of cattle nutrition, protein and energy tend to receive the most hype due to their direct relationships to growth performance and overall body condition. This hype is rightfully placed since the first step to a good nutrition program is to identify and meet protein and energy requirements. The second step involves the lesser-discussed dark horse of the ruminant nutrition world: minerals.

Much of the discussion surrounding minerals is vague, and information is more often accepted by producers than is understood since the world of minerals is complicated and tedious to navigate. As a result, I often find myself on the receiving end of this conversation: “Mineral is so expensive and consumption seems to be hit-or-miss. What will happen if I stop feeding mineral?”

Mineral consumption does indeed vary — from animal to animal as well as from one month to the next. This is often reflective of Continue reading

Backgrounding; A Phase of Growing Calves in Preparation for the Feedlot

Steve Boyles, OSU Beef Extension Specialist

Backgrounding is a term used to describe a phase of growing calves being prepared for feedlot placement. As compared to wintering programs, backgrounding emphasizes a faster rate of gain, with relatively more grain and less roughage.

An example of a typical backgrounding operation would be to feed 400 to 500 pound steer calves to a weight of 600 to 700 pounds. If the feeding period was to be about 120 days, a ration and management program that produces an average daily gain of 1.5-2.5 would provide the desired sales weight.

Advantages of Backgrounded Feeder Calves

  • Provide a market for homegrown grain and roughage that might otherwise have little market value.
  • Calves are efficient converters of good quality feeds.
  • Avoid the stress and resulting health problems associated with shipping of young calves through the marketing system. Because of the potential death loss and health problems associated with handling and shipping of young calves, the cow herd owner has an advantage over those who purchase their calves through the marketing system.
  • Avoids the seasonal fall market glut and targets sales during seasonally strong feeder prices.
  • Provides more flexibility to spread marketings and choose among potentially profitable alternatives.
  • Provides additional flexibility for marketing heifers either as feeders or as herd replacements.

A study at the University of Nebraska in 2018 exhibits the advantages of first Continue reading

Frequently Asked Questions about Harmful Algal Blooms (HABs) in Farm Ponds used to Water Livestock

– Michelle Arnold, DVM-Ruminant Extension Veterinarian (UKVDL)

Water is the most essential nutrient in the diet of cattle and during hot and dry weather, it is especially important to monitor water quality if using farm ponds for livestock. What is a “harmful algae bloom” or “HAB”?

During periods of hot and dry weather, rapid growth of algae to extreme numbers may result in a “bloom”, which is a build-up of algae that creates a green, blue-green, white, or brown coloring on the surface of the water, like a floating layer of paint (see Figure 1). Blooms are designated “harmful” because some algal species produce toxins (poisons) when stressed or when they die. The majority of HABs are caused by blue-green algae, a type of bacteria called “cyanobacteria” that exist naturally in water and wet environments. These microorganisms prefer warm, stagnant, nutrient-rich water and are found most often in ponds, lakes, and slow moving creeks. Farm ponds contaminated with fertilizer run-off, septic tank overflow or direct manure and urine contamination are prime places for algae to thrive. Although blooms can occur at any time of year, they happen most often in the warmer months between June and September when temperatures reach 75 degrees or higher and ponds begin to stagnate. HABs can reduce water quality and intake, but more importantly, they can be deadly when ingested by livestock. Windy conditions can push algal blooms along water edges, increasing the risk for Continue reading

Adding Value to Your Feeder Calves This Fall

Garth Ruff, Extension Educator, Agriculture and Natural Resources, Ohio State University Extension, Henry County

A recent CattleFax survey indicates that calves weaned for 45 days return almost $100/head more.

As summer slips past us yet again and with fall rapidly approaching it is time to discuss how to maximize the value of feeder calves that will be hitting the market in late September and October. If you have been following the cattle futures both fed cattle and feeders have been on a roller coaster here as of late. With that in mind there are some things we can do management wise to capitalize on this year’s calf crop.

Weaning. Across the industry, feeder cattle sold in the fall tend to fit within one of three categories: 1) balling (zero days weaned) calves 2) calves weaned less than 45 days, and 3) calves weaned for at least 45 days. When we look at adding value, weaning calves for at least 45 days netted the highest average sale price of $916 per head, according to the annual Cow-Calf Survey conducted by Cattlefax. In the same survey calves weaned for 28 to 45 days averaged $836/head and calves shipped off the cow were valued at $829/head. The lowest value calves on average were those Continue reading

Understanding Feed and Forage Test Results

Steve Boyles, OSU Beef Extension Specialist

Properly interpreting a forage sample analysis report may be the most important thing you can do for your cows this winter!

Previous articles in this publication have established the critical need for forage analysis on the various timings and cuttings of forages that have been made throughout Ohio this year. Once the forage analysis report is received back from the laboratory, the information below will help with interpretation of the results.

Dry matter (DM) is the percentage of feed that is not water.  Dry matter basis allow you to compare feeds such as hay, grain and silage.  Many software packages formulate diets on the dry matter basis.  Feed test results may have dry matter and “as fed” values.  As fed is the nutrient content with the water included.  You will note that the dry matter values are higher than the as fed values.  Removing the water makes the nutrient values to be higher or more concentrated.

Crude protein (CP) measures both true protein and non-protein nitrogen. Crude protein is an excellent place to start but some other Continue reading

Planning for Winter 2020 Cow Herd Feeding

Francis L. Fluharty, Ph.D. Professor and Head, Department of Animal and Dairy Science, University of Georgia

Poor quality long stem forages, reduced forage supplies, and increased feed and supplementation costs all demand that we look at nutrition management even more closely this year!

The spring and summer of 2019 have set records for rainfall throughout much of the United States, having negative impacts on corn planting and hay production. In addition, areas of the southeast have been exceptionally dry, and hay production has been limited.

Feed costs are high, and with the poor planting season, this coming winter’s grain and grain byproducts could be much higher. Current corn prices are maintaining around the $4.40 level in the eastern corn belt, with transportation costs increasing this to around $5.40 in areas of the southeast. This works out to $.079 to $.096 per pound, depending on location. Dried distillers grains are currently in the price range of $130 to $170 per ton, FOB, or $.065 to $.085 per pound, and the prices of corn gluten feed is keeping pace on an energy and protein basis, at approximately $110 to $140 per ton, or $.055 to $.07 per pound. These prices are based on last year’s corn crop. With reduced corn acres planted this year, next winter’s prices are likely to be much Continue reading

Hay Quality 2019; It’s Déjà vu All Over Again!

Stan Smith, PA, Fairfield County OSU Extension

A forage probe for sampling hay might be the most valuable tool you can use in 2019!

Coming off a year where quality forages for beef cattle were in short supply throughout Ohio, now in mid-2019 we find that inventory remains critically low. With the National Ag Statistics Service (NASS) estimating only 60% of Ohio’s first cutting hay harvest was completed by the first of July, it’s apparent that Ohio cattlemen will again be faced with finding ways to make “feed” from hay that was harvested way past it’s prime.

As an example of the hay quality we’re seeing, a recent forage analysis on some Fairfield County mixed grass hay that was mowed on June 25th and baled on June 29 – after also getting lightly rained on once – came back showing 6.85% protein and 38.02% TDN (total digestible nutrients) on a dry matter basis. The ADF (acid detergent fiber) was 51.63% and the NDF (neutral detergent fiber) was 65.51%.

I could tell you that’s not good, but perhaps a better way is to compare it to wheat straw. When you look up the “book values” for the feed nutrient content of straw you find that Continue reading