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Winter hay supplies are expected to be short this year due to the extended drought. However, we did receive almost 2 inches of rain this past weekend that will go a long way in kick starting our pastures. Right now is a good time to estimate the amount of hay you have on hand to see if you have sufficient supplies to meet your winter feeding needs. If you are going to be short, additional hay or feeds will need to be secured or you will have to cull animals from your herd.
Estimate hay available. It’s best to weigh several bales and get an average weight.
Count the number of bales available for feed.
Estimate storage and feeding losses. If hay is stored outside and fed outside, losses can be as high as 35 percent.
Calculate the number of animal units. Each 100 pounds of body weight equals 0.1 animal unit (1,100 pound cow would be 1.1 animal units).
Mature cow or bull = 1 unit or determine by weight
Yearling cattle = 0.5 unit
Calves = 0.25 unit
For our area, figure about 120-140 days of feed. Since some producers are already feeding hay because of the drought, you may want to increase this number perhaps even to 140-160 days just to be safe..
Most animals will eat 2-3 percent of their body weight in feed each day. Figure about 25-30 pounds of hay or 50-70 pounds of corn silage per animal per day.
Example: Let’s assume you have 200 round bales averaging 1,000 pounds on hand for winter feeding. Assuming a ten percent feeding and storage loss, you would have 180,000 pounds (90 tons) of hay on hand. Calculate the estimated hay needs for the following herd: 25 (1,000 pound) cows, 10 backgrounding steers, 10 replacement heifers, 8 calves and 1(1,800 pound) bull. 25 cows x 1 = 25, 10 backgrounding steers x 0.5 = 5, 10 replacement heifers x 0.5 = 5, 8 calves x 0.25 = 2, 1 bull x 1.8 = 1.8; Total = 38.8 units. Multiply animal units x days x amount of forage per day. Multiply 38.8 animal units x 140 days x 25 pounds of hay per day = 135,800 pounds of hay needed. Divide by 2,000 pounds (1ton) and the required need is 67.9 tons of hay. In this example, you would have a surplus of 22.1 tons of hay supplies on hand to meet winter feeding needs. If you come up short in your own situation, you will want to find additional hay supplies soon. Adapted from beef specialists for the UK Extension Service, UT Extension Service and University of Wisconsin Extension Service.
For more information on estimating your hay needs or extending the grazing season call the Trimble County Extension Service at 502-255-7188.
Michael Pyles is Trimble County’s Cooperative Extension agent for agriculture.