Quality Hay is Critical for Happy and Healthy Livestock
Hay is one of the most popular and widely used feed for livestock. While some may argue that quantity trumps quality when it comes to hay, that is rarely the case. Instead, quality hay is critical for happy and healthy livestock which translates into profitability for producers.
However, there are a number of factors that go into quality hay, including superior management practices and an attention to detail by producers. But which factors are the most important? Ask 100 hay producers and you are likely to get 100 different answers. What follows, however, is a list of the five most important factors necessary for the production of high-quality hay, according to experts in the hay industry.
Maturity of the Plant. Forage quality comes down to the maturity of the plant at the time of the harvest. While many hay producers will forgo forage for yield, doing so is a detriment to animal performance.
Forage Species. It is critical to use the highest quality species that will grow and thrive in your geographical region and environment. While the options are endless for what you can grow, the options for what you should grow are far less.
Storage.Hay bales stored outdoors with no protection will reduce hay quality and quantity—significantly. Moisture penetration does a number on hay bales and leads directly to lost feed.
Rain while Curing. Rain causes carbohydrates to seep out of the forage tissue. This causes a rise in the concentration of fiber while digestibility and dry matter intake are lowered. The worst damage occurs when rain falls on forage that is in the latter stages of the wilting process.
Moisture while Baling. Hay baled when it is too wet causes excessive heating. While the worst scenario is spontaneous combustion, other issues can occur, as well. Heated hay is likely to have high concentrations of heat-damaged, undigestible protein. While this protein is palatable to livestock, it has little nutritional value. Baling hay that has moisture levels of 15 percent or less is ideal.
Hay is one of the most important crops a farmer grows in light of the fact that it keeps livestock growing. Therefore, it is critical to grow high-quality hay that livestock will be appetizing and provide for the nutritional needs of livestock.