The late David Sparks was known to say, “The advice is to stock for a drought. Most people stock for a monsoon.” Even stocking for a drought, though, can create problems. What do you do with the extra forage?
The Kerr Center’s beef cattle program tries to feed as little hay as possible.
This is because it costs less to graze forage than to cut, bale, and feed hay.
In a 2013 study, the Kerr Center compared the costs of wheat pasture versus feeding hay:
|$1.27 per head per day||$0.99 per head per day|
Hay looks cheaper – but the hay would have required a protein supplement to match the nutritional quality of the fresh pasture. Factoring that in would make for more or less equal costs.
Still, a barn full of hay is good insurance against harsh winters and summer droughts.
When putting up hay, cattle producers should look carefully at the costs of baling versus buying. In many cases, labor, equipment, and fertility can cost more than buying hay.
Whether baled or bought, careful storage and feeding reduces hay wastage.
Storage: in barns or covered on pallets
Feeding: skirted, elevated bale rings