Winter Weather Reminds Growers to Store Hay Properly

Growers seldom need reminders of how important it is to store their hay properly. But if any such reminders were necessary, the brutal winter of 2017/2018 is certainly doing the job. Agricultural experts across the country are saying that this year’s especially harsh winter is forcing growers and cattle owners to stretch hay even farther this year than they have in the past.

Cold Arctic temperatures keep cattle inside for longer hours during the day. They also keep snow on the ground and a hard freeze in place. All of this, combined, means fewer opportunities for feeding outside the barn. Cattle owners have to rely more heavily on feed purchased from hay growers. If there is one time of year that neither cattle owners nor growers can afford crop loss, the dead of winter is it.

Crop loss can be caused by excessive moisture and critters. The best way to avoid moisture problems, according to Ohio-based Mytee Products, is to either cover baled hay with hay tarps or store it in a temporary storage building. In either case, hay should be kept up off the ground. It can be stacked on pallets, on tires, or even concrete blocks. Keeping hay off the ground prevents it from absorbing ground-based moisture. Air circulation from below also helps to control moisture.

Suggestions for Stretching Hay

Experts in both hay-growing and cattle-ranching offer some suggestions for stretching hay through the end of the winter months. For growers, it is all about continuing to monitor hay moisture levels. Mytee Product says a good moisture tester with probes that can be inserted into the deepest parts of a bale can let growers know how their hay is doing. If it’s too wet, appropriate measures can be taken to dry it out. Hay that is too dry can be moistened up a bit.

Growers should also be routinely checking their supplies to ensure that no critters have moved in. If necessary, barriers can be set up around stored hay to keep critters out.

From the cattle owner’s perspective, this is the time of year when they have to start thinking about feeding less so as to avoid waste. Farmers should be matching the weight of their cows to the amount of feed being provided. As a general rule, a cow needs to eat 3% of its own body weight per day.

Cattle owners are also advised to only pull out the exact amount of feed needed on a per day basis. This eliminates waste by preventing leftover feed from spoilage. Being so careful with feed requires discipline and even some mathematics, but it is well worth it when hay supplies need to be stretched through the cold winter months.

Supplementing Hay with Off-The-Shelf Feed

One final suggestion for cattle owners is to supplement hay with off-the-shelf feed with byproduct feeds created in the process of making biofuels. The supplemental feeds can add some of the necessary nutrients that may be lacking in late-winter hay. Again, the general rule stipulates that an amount of feed, equal to 1% of the cattleā€™s body weight, can be a mixture of byproduct feed and hay.

Data shows a very good 2017 for owners of both beef and dairy cows. Matching those numbers in 2018 will be a matter of keeping cattle healthy and well fed during the winter. Spring is only a few weeks away, so the end of the winter feeding season is almost here. That’s good news for both growers and cattle owners attempting to stretch last year’s crop as far as they can.

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