Calculations aid farmers in planning annual hay yields

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October is an important time for livestock producers to assess their winter hay supplies. 

With the majority of this year’s hay made, now is the time to determine whether you have enough to get your animals through the winter.  Deter-mining this amount is a rather straightforward task.

Here is how to get a fairly accurate estimate:

• Estimate the number of days you will feed hay this winter.  In a normal year, Kentucky producers average 120 days (from Dec. 1 until March 31) of feeding hay. This will vary depending upon your situation.

• Determine the amount of feed your animals will consume each day. Cattle and horses consume an average of 2.5 percent of their body weight every day. To determine this amount, multiply the average animal’s weight times 0.025 (2.5 percent). Multiply that answer by the number of animals you plan to feed. 

• Multiply the products of No. 1 and No. 2 together. This will give you a good idea of the approximate pounds of hay you will need for the winter.

• Take three or four hay bales to a facility with a scale, such as the local feed store. Take the bales’ average weight and multiply that by the number of bales you have. Compare this number to the amount you need.

You also need to allow for storage and feeding losses, and adjust your hay supplies to cover these losses.  If you store your hay outside, your losses may be more than 50 percent.  A 50 percent loss would mean that you need to double the amount of hay calculated to feed your animals.

Before feeding hay, you should have it tested for nutrient content and toxins.  The Kentucky Department of Agriculture’s Forage Testing Program can help you determine if your animals are truly getting the nutrition they need or if you need to supplement the ration to maintain your animals’ body condition.  You can reach the KDA at 1-800-248-4628.

A one-two punch of overgrazing in many fields during the 2010 drought followed by an extremely wet 2011, resulted in johnsongrass taking hold in pastures where it has never been before in 2012.  A warm-season annual, johnsongrass has the potential to cause cyanide poisoning in ruminants.

Make sure hay coming from a field containing johnsongrass is completely dry before feeding it to your animals. Thorough drying will allow any potential cyanide threat to dissipate. If you want to use a field with johnsongrass for grazing, wait at least two weeks after a light frost, three days after a killing frost or until the johnsongrass is completely dry before you allow the animals to graze the field. 

For more information about cyanide poisoning and hay supplies, contact the Carroll County Cooperative Extension Service at (502) 732-7030.

Dates of interest

Oct. 29:Carroll County Cattleman’s Association Meeting, 6:30 p.m., Carroll County Extension Office.

Oct. 30:Master Stocker Program, Session four of eight, 6:30 p.m., Boone County Extension Office.


Christin Herbst is the Carroll County Extension agent for agriculture and natural resources. Call her at (502) 732-7030 or send e-mail to Christin.Herbst@uky.edu.