Determine winter hay needs
By Daren Redfearn
OSU Extension Forage and Pasture Management Specialist
Due to the continued drought conditions and lack of available hay, many are trying to plan winter feeding programs. By far, the most common winter-feeding option is to feed hay. It is less risky than many available forage options, including pasture. Hay feeding requires the least amount of planning, but it is also the most expensive.
In general, if hay is the only forage available, estimate hay needs at one 1,200-pound round bale for each animal per month. However, if there is some pasture available for grazing, hay one 1,200-pound round bale per two months. Table 1 provides general guidelines for estimating hay needs based on herd size and length of the hay feeding period.
During a 100-day hay-feeding season, a 1,200-pound cow will consume approximately 30 pounds of hay each day and more if it is available. This means that each cow will require three to four round bales weighing at least 1,200 pounds. If hay costs $60 per 1,200-pound bale, then the total cost is $100 per ton. Thus, the cost of feeding hay for 100 days would be almost $200 for each cow.
The major disadvantage to feeding hay is that cattle can waste a large amount if it is not fed in a feeder or ring. Up to 50 percent of the hay fed without a feeder or ring can be wasted. In this case, the number of hay bales required could double to compensate for feeding losses.
To reduce wastage during feeding, each cow should be fed between 35 and 40 pounds per day. Over a 30-day period, this adds up to between 1,000 and 1,200 pounds. To account for associated storage losses, which can be as high as 10 percent for a round bale stored outside for 10 months, and other hay waste producers should plan to feed almost one ton of hay per month per cow.
Feeding hay is expensive, but often the only available option. At a minimum, all hay should be properly tested for nutritive value (crude protein and TDN). The easiest way to reduce hay wastage from feeding is to use a hay ring or feeder.