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Inventoring remaining feed supply

By Todd Whitney and Ben Beckman
Nebraska Extension

Our winter mid-point is Feb. 2 (Ground Hog Day), so now may be a good time to inventory your remaining hay and forage. Remember you can’t effectively manage; what you do not measure.

Do you have enough hay and forage to last the remainder of winter? Your answer may depend on the following: Will La Niña winter drought conditions continue? How likely will open forage grazing conditions continue? Are heavy snow events predicted which could impact your forage grazing?

When making your feed management decisions, consider using ‘best case’ and ‘worst case’ scenarios. Focus on completing a thorough inventory, account for all feed resources; even counting all bales available. Calculate remaining bunker silage. Estimate forage grazing still available, and assign economic values to your remaining forage.



Compare what feed resources you have versus what your herd may need. For example, a 200 head lactating cow herd average cow size of 1,200 pounds will need about 3.2 tons of hay per day… not accounting for waste.

Focus on making the best use of your feed resources. Would it be financially beneficial to sell your extra highest quality forage and feed the rest? If mild winter conditions continue, selling your higher value forage could generate more cash-flow toward paying taxes and land payments.



If your cows are thin, consider the opposite; sell your lower quality forage and feed your higher quality. Thin condition score cows need more protein and energy to keep from dropping body condition and maintaining their milk production.

If you need assistance managing your remaining feed resources and evaluating your hay and forage needs, Nebraska Extension educational resources are available online at CropWatch, BeefWatch and beef.unl.edu

DECIPHERING A HAY TEST: MOISTURE

Having hay tested for nutrient quality is critical in getting the most out of the feedstuffs you have. Once the results come back, the next step is understanding what the report you receive means.

The first thing we notice on most feed or hay tests are the results are given in two different groups or columns. One is labeled along the lines of “as received” or “as fed” and another “dry basis.” Understanding the difference in these two columns is key to properly using the information provided when feeding.

“As received” represents the analysis of the sample as it was provided. This is what we will use to figure out rations or how much hay animals need to be provided. The “dry basis” is the sample after all moisture has been removed and doesn’t accurately represent the sample as it sits in the yard.

So why bother with “dry basis” if we don’t use it to figure feed amounts? Because when it comes to comparing feeds and finding the correct ratios in a ration, we need to compare things on an equal playing field.

For example, let’s say you and I both cooked up a large amount of rice, then scooped out one cup as a comparison. Since the volume was the same, we might assume they were equal, but if I cooked my rice with ½ cup of water to every cup of dry rice and you added 1 cup of water to every cup of dry rice, the actual end result will be different weights, densities, and nutritionally. Comparing hay stored outside to a bale kept under a roof is not fair, so we even things out by using a dry matter comparison.

Now that we have a firm grasp on the “as received” and “dry basis” columns, we can take a look at rest of the feed report next time.


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