Calculating hay supply

By Andy Mills

Source: Tom Keene, UK hay specialist

The arrival of fall is an important time for livestock producers to assess their winter hay supplies. Kentucky forage and livestock producers made a lot of hay this September, and for much of the state, hay supplies should be adequate for winter feeding. However, in areas of Western Kentucky that experienced a longer, more extensive drought, some producers may have supply issues.

With the majority of this year’s hay made, now is the time to determine whether you have enough to get your animals through the winter. Determining this is not difficult. Here’s how to get a fairly accurate estimate.

Estimate the number of days you’ll feed hay this winter. In a normal year, Kentucky producers average 120 days (from Dec. 1 until March 31) of feeding hay.

Determine the amount of feed your animals will consume each day. Cattle and horses consume an average of 2.5 percent of their body weight every day. To determine this, multiply the average animal’s weight times 0.025 (2.5 percent) and multiply that by the number of animals you plan to feed. For example, a 1200 pound cow will consume approximately 30 pounds of hay per day (1200 X .025). A herd of 30 cows averaging 1200 pounds will consume 900 pounds of hay per day (30 pounds of hay per day X 30 cows).

Multiply the products of No. 1 and No. 2 together. This will give you a good idea of the approximate pounds of hay you’ll need for the winter. Therefore, a 30 cow herd of 1200 pound cows will consume 108,000 pounds of hay this winter (900 pounds per day X 120 days). That’s how much they need to eat. To figure what is needed to feed, a farmer needs to know bale weight as well as calculate hay waste.

Take three or four hay bales to a facility with a scale, such as the local feed store. Take the bale’s average weight and multiply that by the number of bales you have. Compare this number to the amount you need.

You also need to allow for storage and feeding losses, and adjust your hay supplies to cover these losses. If you store your hay outside, your losses may be more than 50 percent. A 50 percent loss would mean that you need to double the amount of hay you calculated is needed to feed your animals.

Before feeding hay, you should have it tested for nutrient content and toxins. The Kentucky Department of Agriculture’s Forage Testing Program can help you determine if your animals are truly getting the nutrition they need or if you need to supplement the ration to maintain your animals’ body condition. You can reach the KDA at 1-800-248-4628.

For more information about cyanide poisoning and hay supplies, contact the Meade County Cooperative Extension Service.

Educational programs of the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service serve all people regardless of economic or social status and will not discriminate on the basis of race, color, ethnic origin, national origin, creed, religion, political belief, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, pregnancy, marital status, genetic information, age, veteran status, or physical or mental disability.

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