From Dr. Mario Villarino, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension
According to Vanessa Corriher, feed specialist at Texas A&M Agrilife Extension, one of the first considerations when buying hay is that it should be tailored to the animals’ individual needs. For optimal production, the feed quality should be adapted as closely as possible to the nutritional needs of the animal. Poor quality feed can lead to decreased animal performance and increased costs for additional feed. However, if the hay is of sufficient quality, little or no supplementation is required to meet the animals’ nutritional needs.
Remember that not all forage or hay is created equal. There are big differences between feeds and the nutritional content can vary dramatically even within a given feed type. Several factors influence the hay quality, such as ripeness (harvest time), type and type of forage, fertilization, temperature, leaf-stem ratio and weather conditions during harvest / baling.
Whether you are buying hay or feeding it with the hay you have grown, it is a good idea to test the hay to see what supplements, if any, are needed when the hay is being fed. When collecting samples, it is recommended that about 10% of the bales of a particular cut or load be removed with a hay probe. A hay probe can often be borrowed from your district office. Samples should be taken from bales which would represent hay from the entire field. After taking samples from the bales, combine the samples and remove a part to send for analysis.
Crude protein content is the most common thing people think about when testing hay. While crude protein content is important, a good estimate of TDN (Totally Digestible Nutrients) is just as important and in many cases more important than crude protein. There are a variety of commercial and university feed laboratories across the country.
Texas A&M AgriLife Expansion Service
Soil, water and feed testing laboratory
the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service Soil, Water and Forage Testing Laboratory offers feed analysis as a service from College Station, Texas. For more information on feed testing or available feed laboratories, contact your local beef cattle or livestock specialist or ruminant nutritionist.
Now is the time to do a nutritional analysis of all available hay and feed. Sort your cattle according to their nutritional needs. Adapt the available feed and hay to the different groups of cattle and ensure that their nutritional needs are met. Feeding cattle is never cheap, but producers who have information about what they are feeding can be more efficient.
To promote hay testing and support local youth students, the Hopkins County Hay Show is currently soliciting hay samples to enter the 2021 Hay Show before October 8, 2021. Hay samples will be tested for TDN and protein free of charge as part of the competition. Hay samples can be submitted to the Hopkins County USDA office. The winners will be announced on October 21, 2021 at the Hopkins County Regional Civic Center.
For more information on this or any other agricultural topic please contact the Hopkins County Extension Office at 903-885-3443 or email me at [email protected].