Hay availability may be short this winter. Due to last year’s drought and this year’s early record rainfall and drought — both hay quality and yield are down. The variability of yield, quality and number of cuttings indicate the hay supply could get tight.
To make the most of your hay quantity and quality, store hay inside a barn, where it will remain dry. Remember to store hay in barns that have access in all types of weather. If that is not feasible, cover with a tarp to protect it from the elements.
Get your hay tested by the Kentucky Department of Agriculture. Testing is the first step to knowing how much will be necessary to meet the nutritional needs of the animals you feed, regardless of species.
Hay is typically fed from mid-December until mid-March, about 110 days; though that will vary due to weather, pasture conditions, and the needs of different animals.
To reduce waste, get hay, whether round or square bales, off the ground using pallets, feeders, or hay carts. This simple step can reduce wasted hay by almost half. Do your best not to leave a single round bale out in the open for animals to eat. Livestock will consume the center of the round bale, which has remained dry and protected, first, and that will greatly increase waste.
To determine your winter hay needs: 1.) Calculate the number of days animals will need feed, 2.) Weigh a random sample of bales so you know the average weight of your bales, using scales at local farms, farm businesses or truck stops, 3.) With the results of the hay test, calculate how many pounds each animal will need daily and 4.) Arrive at a grand total of how much hay the herd will require over the winter.