Although pasture grass is the preferred method of feeding livestock sometimes the diet will need to be supplemented to meet their needs. Hay is often fed during the winter since bahiagrass and bermuda grass, the two most common pasture grasses in Florida, are dormant during the cooler months.
Estimating Hay Needs
Making sure you have access to enough hay to feed your livestock during the winter months is an essential part of farm management. The University of Florida has created a tool that allows you to estimate winter forage needs for beef cattle operations easily. Your county extension office may have a physical slide chart to offer you or you can find the document here. Cattle need at least 2.5% of their body weight in dry matter a day, preparing for that is essential.
Purchasing hay can be a tricky street to navigate. There are plenty of different types of grass hays, different size bales, and different types of quality hay. Purchasing a size hay bale that is easily managed on your operation is important. Horse owners often buy small square bales so they can individually feed animals and possible a large round bale in the pasture. Cattle operations generally feed large round or large square bales in order to feed more animals at once.
Price, storage, and availability are all factors that can affect what type of hay is purchased. Choose the type of hay and size of hay that best fits your operation. Find more information on hay bale size and weights here.
Before hay is purchased, or if you bale your own hay, always have it tested for quality. The University of Florida provides a low cost forage test for producers to get a good idea of the nutrition their animals will be getting from the hay. Collection is easy and many county extension offices offer this service to producers.
Selling hay? Having your hay tested can allow you to use the nutritional results as a marketing tool, think “Proven Quality Hay”.
Hay isn’t up to par? Learn about the factors affecting forage quality here.
Plan for Next Year
Purchasing hay can get expensive over time and reducing this farm expense can have a major impact on available funds. Learn about planting and grazing cool season forages here so you are prepared for next year.