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If you are a seasoned farmer, you probably already know that hay availability in Kentucky may be short this winter. Due to weather events—droughts and floods—both hay quality and yield are down. To ensure an adequate amount of hay, farmers should enact several measures. Store hay inside a barn, where it will remain dry. If that is not feasible, cover with a tarp to protect from the elements. Buy hay by the ton if possible and require certified stamped weight.
Testing is the first step to knowing how much will be necessary to meet the nutritional needs of the animals you feed, from horses to cattle to goats. Hay is tested primarily for crude protein, acid detergent fiber, neutral detergent fiber, total digestible nutrients and relative feed value. Fortunately, this is also a free service offered by McCreary County Extension, so contact our office for more information on that.
Farmers typically feed hay from mid-December until mid-March, though that will vary due to weather, pasture conditions and the needs of different animals. To reduce waste, you should get hay, whether round or square bales, off the ground, either by using pallets, feeders or hay carts. If that is not possible, feed in long rows so hay is immediately consumed, rather than leaving a round bale out for animals to pick at over time.
To help determine hay needs:
- Calculate the number of days animals will need feed.
- Weigh a random sample of bales using scales at feed mills or truck stops so you know the average weight of your bales.
- With the results of a hay test, calculate how many pounds each animal will need daily.
- Determine the total amount of hay the herd will require over the winter.
Forward planning and good management practices will help ensure an adequate hay supply during the winter. Because hay is a commodity, with a price that relies on supply and
demand, it is unlikely that prices decrease in the coming winter months. So, if you do not have enough, you should buy it now, before more buyers move into the market.
The McCreary County Extension Office hosts monthly McCreary Cattlemen’s Association meetings on the 2nd Tuesday of each month at 6:30pm. These meetings are open to the public, and we cover a variety of educational topics at each meeting. If you are a cattle producer, considered attending these programs and joining the McCreary Cattlemen’s Association to gain support and fellowship from local producers. To find out about events and services offered by McCreary County Extension give us a call at 606-376-2524 or stop by our office at 141 College St in Whitley City. All of our events are also posted on our website and facebook page.