Making Hay When the Sun Shines?

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With the prime of haymaking season being upon us, I ask you the question of, how is your hay? Certainly, a loaded question that could be answered many different ways, but it is very important for us to know exactly what we are feeding our livestock.

To many times we hear folks say that they are making high-quality hay, but the only reasoning they have believe that their hay is “high quality” is that it looks good to them or it is green. Looks can certainly be deceiving in this sense though. Without a proper Forage Analysis Test, we have no idea what we are actually feeding.

A simple analysis can tell us so much about our feed, and make us much more efficient managers of our resources. First off, we need to know what cycle our livestock are in for when we will be feeding, and know what their needs are. Are we growing heifers, do we have cows that are nursing calves, are we fixing to start calving cows? All are different, and all require different nutrient needs. With knowing the exact nutrients that our hay offers we will better know which section of our hay to feed to different animals. Not only will this make our hay bill more efficient, but it will also improve the quality of livestock because they are consuming a more properly balanced ration.

The weather that this summer has offered has been nothing short of a trying year to make hay. High levels of rain can make the nutritional value fluctuate in our hay fairly rapidly. Whether you are selling your hay or feeding it to your own animals, knowing what we are producing and feeding will better insure that we not only creating a product to gain repeat customers, but that we providing our livestock with a proper diet to meet their needs.

Taking a sample is very simple. Using a core sampler, take a sample from each “lot” of hay you have. Generally, a “lot” is from the same field of the same cutting of hay. If you have square bales take it from the end, and if you have round rolls take them from the side. Take enough samples to fill a quart size bag. N.C. Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services offers a testing lab that can run an analysis of your hay at a cost of $10. If you have any question please feel free to contact the N.C. Cooperative Extension of Henderson County office and I will be more than happy to help you with a sample.