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Good nutrition keeps everyone happy and healthy. Test your hay to insure that your
livestock’s nutritional needs are met. Dr. David Fernandez, UAPB livestock specialist
and producer, his son Hunter and friend Jacob Edom enjoy watching sheep eat get their
nutrition. (UAPB Image)
September 5, 2014
PINE BLUFF, Ark. – When ranchers buy hay, they usually think of how many tons they
need to get their livestock through the winter when they should be thinking of the
pounds of nutrients they are buying, said David Fernandez, Cooperative Extension Program
livestock specialist at the University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff.
Ranchers can feed their animals 33 pounds of pine straw per day and meet their need
to eat something, but that will not meet their nutritional needs, Fernandez said.
Most hay producers don’t test their hay, so ranchers can’t know whether or not they
are buying enough nutrients for the animals’ needs.
There is one way to find out – hay testing. Take a core sample from several bales
using a hay probe, available in Arkansas at your county Extension office. Put the
sample in a quart size bag and take it to your county Extension office. Remember to
keep it out of the sun so the forage in the sample does not become bleached or “cooked”
on the dashboard, he said. Dr. Fernandez. The cost of a hay analysis is $18; the results
of the hay analysis will tell you how many pounds of nutrients are in each ton of
Then, look at your animals and their nutritional needs. Typically, producers are most
concerned about TDN, a measurement of the energy in the feed, and crude protein, or
CP. An 1,100-pound pregnant cow needs about 11 pounds of TDN and 1.5 pounds of CP
each day. If your hay analysis shows your hay is 60 percent TDN and 9 percent CP and
your cow eats 25 pounds of hay each day, she will get 13.2 pounds of TDN and 1.98
pounds of CP. Your hay will more than meet her needs.
Keep in mind that hay is typically 88 percent dry matter, and TDN and CP are reported
as percent of dry matter, Fernandez said. In the above example, 25 (amount consumed)
x 88 percent (dry matter) x 60 percent (TDN) = Amount of TDN in the hay.
What if your hay analysis shows 45 percent TDN and 6 percent CP? If so, she will only
get 9.9 pounds of TDN and 1.32 pounds of CP which is not enough to meet her nutritional
needs. You may have paid the same amount of money for each ton, but you did not buy
as many nutrients in the second example, he said.
When feeding poor quality hay, you have to supplement your livestock with grain, pellets
or cubes. A cow eating this hay needs an extra 1.1 pounds of TDN and a quarter pound
of CP daily to meet her needs.
For more details on hay testing, see Extension fact sheet FSA 3114 “Test Hays for
Nutrition Composition Before Feeding” by Shane Gadberry and Mark Keaton. To learn
how to substitute supplements for hay, get FSA 3037 “Substitution Grain for Hay in
Beef Cow Diets” by Gadberry and Paul Beck. If you have questions, contact Dr. Fernandez
at (870) 575-7214 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Program offers its programs to all eligible persons
regardless of race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin,
religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any
other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.
By Carol Sanders, writer/editorUAPB School of Agriculture, Fisheries and Human Sciences(870) email@example.com