Cows have a beef — hay quality is lousy this winter

Use caution when feeding just hay this year.

Nutrition test results show a lot of the hay going into cows’ mouths this winter is of unusually poor quality, said MAFRI farm production adviser Pam Iwanchysko. A delayed harvest and summer drought resulted in the TDN (total digestible nutrient) content of many samples from across Western Canada testing well below average, although protein content is on par with past years.

“Hay in general — all hays — have come back really poor quality,” said Iwanchysko. “The energy is way down this year.”

Using the feed test data to formulate suitable rations has been a struggle, but the warm weather to date helped reduce nutritional requirements for wintering cows.

“If it does get cold, guys are going to have to supplement — there’s no doubt about it,” she said.

For next year, harvesting a portion of the crop closer to June than late July or August — even if volumes are less — and then blending it off with poorer-quality hay baled later in the season might pay off in terms of TDN values, she added.



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