Fall is around the corner, and while it may not seem like it, the weather reminds us of the changing of the seasons. This is the time of year when many producers are hauling hay home for the winter as well as pricing and purchasing hay. There is a tremendous range in hay quality depending upon the level of maturity, fertilization, growing conditions, harvest circumstances, and storage methods. Accurately sampling and testing hay is the only way to get a real understanding of the nutritive value of feed. Using values from previous years or a “book value” can be costly since a producer may incorrectly develop a ration using values that aren’t representative.
When sampling hay, getting a representative sample is a critical first step. Samples must accurately represent an entire lot of hay. When obtaining a sample for analysis, it should be kept separate from other lots of hay.
Cattle feeds should be analyzed for moisture, protein, and energy. Producers may also want to have forages tested for key minerals. Feed sample results are usually reported on an as-is and dry-matter basis.
When developing a ration for cattle or comparing feeds to one another, always utilize the nutrient analysis on a dry-matter basis. After formulating a ration on a dry-matter basis, the values can then be converted to an as-is basis using the moisture content of the feed to determine the actual amount of feed that should be fed to the cattle on an as-is basis.
For our equine friends, hay is the foundation of the diet and provides 50-90% of the horse’s total nutrients. Protein and fiber values are important factors in balancing the equine diet. These values will vary widely by state, county, field, and cutting. Hay testing is needed to calculate the digestible energy (DE) and calorie in your hay. Balancing your horse’s diet – or “what’s in your hay” should tell you what to feed and/or supplements you should be using.
Cherokee Feed & Seed & Purina Animal Nutrition offers free hay and forage testing services. Either for livestock or horses, just fill out the form below and we’ll contact you to set up a visit to your farm or ranch. Our team will come out and take samples, and send them to a third-party lab to be analyzed – all at no cost to you. This service is offered year-round.