Understanding hay market reports is key to making the best purchase for profitability
The quoting of hay quality, type and price can vary from state to state. This adds confusion to hay market reports for many farmers according to Eldon Cole, a livestock specialist with University of Missouri Extension.
The description of hay in Missouri reports is as follows: Supreme, Relative Feed Value 185 and up; Premium RFV 170 to 185; Good RFV 150 to 170; Fair 130 to 150 RFV. These grades are usually for alfalfa or alfalfa-grass mix.
“These grades are descriptive and objective since the hay has RFV numbers that indicate it has been tested for acid and neutral detergent fiber levels. RFV does not include crude protein in its formula,” said Cole.
According to Cole, the real dilemma comes with grass hay placed into subjective grades.
A recent Missouri hay market report listed Fair/Good grass hay at $70 to $100 per ton.
Here is a description of “Good” grass hay: early to normal maturity, early head, leafy, fine to medium stemmed, free of damage other than slight discoloration.
Fair grass hay should be late maturity, headed out, moderate or below leaf content, generally coarse stemmed and may show light damage.
In the grass hays: over 13 percent crude protein would be Premium, 9 to 13 percent falls in the Good range, 5 to 9 percent Fair and Utility is very late maturity, heavy weed content or mold with under 5 percent protein.
In the descriptions, no mention is made of total digestible nutrients. In the grass hays a 60 percent or higher TDN is extremely good and should be attained with hay considered Premium.
“The Good grass hays should fall in the upper 50 percent TDN range while Fair will be in the 50 to 55 percent range. Utility hay would be below 50 percent possibly falling into the low 40 percent TDN level. That is poor hay that would need lots of supplemental feed help,” said Cole.
The most certain way to evaluate hay quality is to have it tested through a lab.
“Make your objective comparison on a dry matter basis from the nutrient results. With the lab results obtain a nutrient requirement table for various beef cattle. It will indicate the suitability of that hay for your cattle as far as protein and TDN or energy are concerned,” said Cole.
For more information, contact Eldon Cole at 417-466-3102 or your local Extension agent.