Hay is a perishable commodity that deteriorates over time when exposed to weather. For example, 90 days after hay is cut, the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, and E start to oxidize and become less available to the animals. Supplementing vitamins should be considered at this point. When feeding two year old hay, virtually no vitamin precursors are present in the feed and it is necessary to inject or feed vitamins until the cattle are out on pasture next spring.
When hay is exposed to weather for a year, the outer 5 inches of the bale has a 20% reduction in digestibility when stored outdoors, unprotected from the weather. Overall, the digestibility of the whole bale is reduced by 10%. Soluble carbohydrates and proteins are leached out of the bales by weathering which reduces overall nutrient content and weight of the bale. If hay is kept over for a second year, additional weight loss and decreased digestibility occurs. In some situations, older hay may be no better than feeding cereal straw.
If you expect this older feed to be the majority of this year’s feeding program, protein and energy supplementation will likely be needed to meet animal requirements. As a guideline, hay made in the summer of 2019 should not be more than 25 to 30% of the forage in early to mid-pregnancy and 15 to 20% in late pregnancy. Depending on quality, two year old hay may not be suitable to include in lactating cow or newly weaned calf rations. Feed tests are needed to determine quality.
If you are buying two year old hay, how do you come up with a fair price?
1) Weigh the bales. Don’t use average weights from when the bales were made.
2) Take a representative sample and test the feed. Does the quality meet your needs?
3) Price should reflect the 10% reduction in digestibility for hay that was stored outdoors. If the cows cannot digest the hay efficiently, more nutrients end up in the manure.
4) Compare the price of two year old hay to greenfeed. Pay according to quality not forage type.
For more information on using older hay, call Barry at 403-741-6032.