Hay Sampling

Rory Lewandowski, OSU Extension Agriculture & Natural Resources Educator, Wayne County

I have received several phone calls recently where the caller describes their hay; date baled, whether or not it got rained on before baling, general appearance, and sometimes smell. The question is how to best use this hay, is it suitable for horses or cows or sheep to eat?  Physical evaluation of hay is useful to sort hay into general categories such as high, medium or low quality.  To move beyond general categories and predict animal performance requires a forage chemical analysis.

This is a good year to sample your hay for analysis.  I have seen some first cutting hay forage test results with nutrient values comparable to straw.  Feeding low and medium quality hay without a Continue reading

Supplementing Poor Quality Hay

Clif Little, OSU Extension, Guernsey county

Forage can provide most of the nutritional requirements of a beef herd during the fall and winter months. The challenge becomes the management of supplemental energy and protein due to low quality hay. Several options available to the cow-calf producer for the management of forage and supplement are discussed here.

Determine the Nutritional Value of the Existing Forage

To properly supplement livestock, each forage should be sampled and analyzed. Forage testing laboratories describe the proper sampling techniques for various forages. Contact your local Agriculture Extension Educator for a test probe and instructions for submitting the sample to a laboratory. Forage quality may have a dramatic impact on dry-matter intake. The higher the NDF (neutral detergent fiber) content of forage, the less forage an animal will be able to consume. Cattle will generally consume 1.2 to 1.5% of their body weight per day in forage NDF depending on Continue reading

Have a Palatable Thanksgiving!

Christine Gelley, Agriculture and Natural Resources Educator, Noble County, OSU Extension

This Thanksgiving turkey is certainly very palatable! Are you equally confident your livestock feeds are palatable?

I doubt anyone has ever wished you a “palatable Thanksgiving” before. It seems like a strange greeting, but it is genuine from me to you, and also to any animals that you are feeding at home or on the farm. I hope the interactions you have consist of sweet and savory words, rather than bitter or sour ones as you gather around the table for dinner. I hope the same for the food!

Why did I use the word “palatable”? Well, let me explain.

On two difference occurrences in November, I had the chance to talk with groups about how important palatability is for animal intake of feed rations.

The word “palatable” is an adjective. It describes the how preferable an experience is, most often, an eating experience. The scale of preference though is very difficult to quantify. Especially when we think about animal intake, because Continue reading

Buying Hay; Consider Quality and Value

Garth Ruff, Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension Educator, OSU Henry County Extension

While there are some visual and sensory characteristics to look at, the only sure fire way to determine quality is to pull a sample and do a forage analysis.

As 2018 was a lousy year for making dry hay across the state, 2019 wasn’t much better or perhaps worse yet. For those who have to purchase hay this winter there are a few things to consider in terms of hay quality and value. There are some visual and sensory characteristics we can look at, as a gross indication of forage quality. The presence of seed heads (grass forages), flowers or seed pods (legumes), indicate more mature forages. Good-quality legume forages will have a high proportion of leaves, and stems will be less obvious and fine. While we tend to favor bright green forages from a visual perspective, color is not a good indicator of nutrient content, but bright green color does suggest minimal oxidation.

Smell of the forage and moisture content are also valuable indicators in determining hay quality. Good quality hay will have a Continue reading

Feeding High Ash Forages

Bill Weiss, Department of Animal Sciences

Forage analysis is suggesting that in some cases soil conditions at harvest of some of our cover crop forages is increasing ash concentration by 6 or more percentage points.

We have received reports of some forages, including cover crops that were planted in later summer, having very high concentrations of ash. Ash in forages is comprised of minerals contained within the plant (for example, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and copper) and soil contamination that was either splashed onto the surface of the plant while in the field or was picked up during harvest. On average cool season grasses such as orchardgrass or fescue harvested as hay or silage have about 7-9% ash and legumes such as alfalfa harvested as hay or silage average 10-12% ash. Generally mineral concentrations decrease as plants mature and is greater in forages grown in soils that contain high concentrations of available potassium (luxury consumption). These factors will change plant ash concentrations but generally by only a few percentage points.

On the other hand, harvest practices and soil conditions at harvest can increase ash concentrations by 5 to more than 15 percentage points with only small changes occurring in major mineral concentrations. Soil contamination can greatly increase concentrations of trace minerals especially iron, manganese, and aluminum. A study from the University of Delaware evaluated the composition of Continue reading

Corn Stalks Provide Another Grazing Option

Rory Lewandowski, OSU Extension Agriculture & Natural Resources Educator, Wayne county

Over the past several weeks, a considerable amount of corn has been harvested for grain. The corn stalk residue or fodder that remains offers another grazing opportunity for beef cattle or sheep. According to a Penn State Extension publication entitled “Grazing Corn Stalks with Beef Cattle”, for every bushel of corn there are approximately 18 lbs. of stem/stalk, 16 lbs. of husk and leaves and 5.8 to 6.0 lbs. of cob left as residue.

According to a University of Nebraska beef production site, for a quick estimate of corn stalk grazing days for a 1200-pound non-lactating cow, divide the corn grain bushel yield by 3.5. Corn stalk residue does provide energy and crude protein but is low in mineral and vitamin A content, therefore a well-balanced mineral and vitamin mix should be provided free choice along with salt.

Cattle and sheep grazing corn stalk residue select and eat the grain first, followed by the husk and leaf and finally the cob and stalk. Typically, there is less than one bushel of corn ears dropped per acre unless the field has experienced high winds. One potential issue with selectively consuming the grain first is digestive upset/ acidosis, or in severe cases Continue reading

Your Hay Storage Impacts Quality and Quanity

David Dugan, OSU Extension Educator, Agriculture and Natural Resources, Adams County

Where and how hay is stored can have a huge impact on the quality and quantity that’s available to be used for feed

With the calendar turning to November, and the temperatures dropping below freezing several mornings now, the time to feed hay is near, if not already here. Several have been feeding hay due to the pasture situation following a dry September that included several 90 degree plus days that zapped much of the grass.

I hope by now that samples have been pulled to get some idea of the nutrients in your hay so you can supplement when needed. Locally I have stressed the concern for hay quality for the passed few months and feel it is something many do not take as serious as maybe they should. The idea that I have heard time after time over the years is, it will beat snowballs, keeps coming to mind. That is a true statement, but will it beat wheat straw? Maybe.

OK, enough about quality, I am now Continue reading

Stalks and Syrup

– Dr. Jeff Lehmkuhler, Associate Extension Professor, University of Kentucky

This fall many producers are questioning if they will have enough hay to get through to spring. Tight hay supplies are making it difficult to find hay as well. Several folks were asking about baling soybeans that had empty pods and Dr. Teutsch addressed this in a previous article (http://news.ca.uky.edu/article/uk-offers-considerations-grazing-harvesting-drought-stressed-soybeans). Now questions regarding options for corn stalks are beginning to surface. Stalks can be an option but you need to consider a few things. The highest quality forage portions of corn crop residues are the leaves and husks. Residual corn left in the field is not going to be captured in the bales which lowers the feeding value compared to grazing the field. The cob and stalk are lower in digestibility than the husk and leaves. The stalk can comprise the majority of the bale. Protein levels can be variable in the 3-6% range which is insufficient for cattle. Protein supplementation will be needed when feeding stalks. The energy or Total Digestible Nutrient (TDN) level in corn stalk bales can also be variable ranging from 48-58% depending on the stalk to leaf/husk proportions. It is important that bales are tested for nutrient content. Stalks can retain a lot of moisture making baling and storing bales a challenge.

If corn stalks are being considered, they are best utilized when processed. Feeding stalk bales as one would hay bales in a ring feeder can lead to Continue reading

Searching for Opportunities

– Kevin Laurent, Beef Extension Specialist, Princeton Research and Education Center, University of Kentucky

To say that 2019 has been a challenging year would be a huge understatement. From the excessive rain the first half of the year, to the drought and depressed markets of late, 2019 will definitely be remembered as one of those years much like 2007, 2009 and 2012. Like most challenges in life, there always seems to be an opportunity if we just look hard enough. Some may think these so called opportunities are dressed in camouflage and I wouldn’t dare argue with you. However, there have been a few positive signs recently with the market trending higher and many areas receiving some rain. Although we are far from out of the woods on either front, there are a few strategies we can use to minimize losses now and improve our situation in the Continue reading

Get Your Cattle Ready for Winter Before the Snow Flies

Catelyn Turner, Agricultural and Natural Resource Educator, OSU Extension, Monroe County (originally published in Farm and Dairy)

By looking at six critical areas on a cow, we can determine a body condition score and then develop a feeding plan.

The past week has brought a few chilly mornings, as well as the thoughts that winter is coming sooner than we think. It feels like just last week we were having 70 – 80-degree weather! The brisk mornings we have had have meant wearing a light jacket on the commute to work, but just because we are cold doesn’t mean our cattle are cold, yet. Cattle typically have a lower comfort level at around 20 – 30 degrees Fahrenheit, as long as the weather conditions are dry with little to no wind chill. Once the temperature drops below this range cattle will need more feed for energy, or they will start to use their stored fat to maintain their body temperature. Planning for the winter season is always a good idea, especially when it comes to keeping our cows in an adequate Body Condition Score (BCS) range prior to calving.

The key to it all, in my opinion, is planning ahead. It is way easier and less stressful if we have a plan in place and have evaluated the Continue reading