Hay is expensive and many long hours go into harvesting, storing, and feeding it. Don’t waste up to a third of it by using poor feeding practices.

Believe it or not, cattle can trample, over consume, manure on, and use for bedding up to 25-45% of your hay when it is fed with no restrictions. Extra control in feeding can pay off big time with that expensive hay.

For starters, don’t provide more than one day’s supply at a time. 

Research has shown that when cows are fed a four-day supply, they will overeat and waste 20-30% more hay than when they are fed one day at a time. This adds up to $50-75 more per cow over a four-month feeding period. 

The best method of all is to feed only what the livestock will clean up in one meal, so nothing is left over to be wasted. Be sure to provide sufficient space, though, for all animals to eat at once, so boss cows don’t stop timid cows from getting their fair share.

Another thing you can do is restrict access to hay. Use bale racks or rings to keep animals off the hay.  Racks with barriers around the bottom are especially useful if they prevent livestock from pulling hay loose with their feet and dragging it out to be stepped on. If you unroll bales or grind and feed on the ground, position an electric fence alongside or above the hay to keep cows from trampling or bedding down on the hay.

As always, feed a balanced ration that provides sufficient energy and protein, but not too much. Animals that eat more protein than they need will simply excrete it as extra nitrogen in their urine. This is just as wasteful as directly trampling it into the ground.

By Jerry Volesky

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