The concern of drought continues to be on everyone’s mind, and as a result many producers are actively searching for hay to purchase to feed livestock in future months.
In many areas across South Dakota, the hay crop has been significantly below normal due to multiple factors, including little to no winter precipitation, an early warm spring, below normal spring precipitation, and recent high winds coupled with above normal temperatures.
When all of these are factored together the result is a 50-75% below normal hay crop for South Dakota depending on the part of the state.
That being said, ranchers need to be proactive in finding feed for their livestock.
The most recent U.S. Drought Monitor shows nearly 70% of the country is dealing with dry conditions at some level, which means there are a lot of people looking for feed.
Below is a list of resources that may help you locate feed for your livestock.
•Nebraska Department of Agriculture Hay and Forage Hotline
•Internet Hay Exchange
•The Hay Barn
Feed for cows doesn’t always have to come in the form of alfalfa or grass hay.
There are other forage options available that producers should evaluate.
These include small grain hays (wheat, oats and barley), millet hay, forage sorghum and sudangrass, CRP hay, straw (wheat, oat or barley), and corn stalks or grazing standing corn.
With all of these options, it is important to get the feed tested to determine the feed quality and if there are going to be specific nutrients that are short or in excess.
Price these feeds against medium quality grass hay to determine the most economical option for the ranch.
If you do not readily have access to these forage sources or the price is prohibitive, another option is high fiber by-product feeds.
These are fiber based energy by-products that provide key nutrients in the diet, and will not alter the rumen environment or have a negative impact on forage digestibility the way that high starch grains can.
The most available of these feed options include wheat middlings, soybean hulls, beet pulp, corn gluten feed, and distiller’s grain.
Others include sunflower hulls, oat hulls, and millet hulls; but the challenge is that these generally are not worth the expense as they have a low nutritive value and a high trucking cost.
If you choose to replace a portion of hay with fiber based by-products, here are some guidelines to follow:
•Soybean hulls and wheat midds can replace up to 60% of the hay in the diet, but there should be at least 6-7 lbs of hay per day in the diet
•Corn gluten feed and distiller’s grain can replace up to 50% of the hay in the diet, with a 10 lb maximum inclusion.
•These products will supply supplemental protein and/or energy to the diet
The key in determining the best option is to compare the feeds on actual nutrient analysis and then compare on a price per pound of nutrient basis.
For example, if you do not have enough hay and you are trying to determine the most economical feed source, you need to compare the feeds on a cost per pound of energy basis.
On the other hand, if you have a lot of low-quality forage but need to add protein, you will compare the feeds on a cost per pound of protein basis.
SDSU Department of Animal Science and SDSU Extension have a Feed Value Calculator that can be used to help make cost comparison decisions on feeds.
Source: Adele Harty