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2015 Arkansas Hay Test Trends for May through July

August 14, 2015

2015 Arkansas Hay Test Trends for May through July



The 2015 hay crop in Arkansas has been challenged with an abundance of cool days and rain during late spring and early summer.  Even after rain ceased, harvest was delayed while hay and livestock producers waited for water logged soils to dry out.  Warmer and dryer days gave way to good forage growth during the wait.

Livestock producers and county agents have reported first-cutting being delayed, even into late-July.  For the 3-month period of May, June, and July the total number of hay samples submitted to the University of Arkansas diagnostics lab was 216, slightly below the 5-year (2010-2014) average of 227 samples.  Sample median protein level was 10.6%, which is 4% lower than samples submitted during this period last year and 7% lower than the previous 5-year average.  Fiber analysis (acid detergent and neutral detergent fiber) during the 3-month period was similar to the 5-year average, and the median total digestible nutrients estimate for submitted samples was 56%.

The fiber content (greatly affected by plant maturity at harvest) of samples submitted to the lab thus far aren’t in line with expectations attributed to this summer’s field conditions.  Keep in mind, 216 samples is an extremely small sample of the total hay harvest.

One consistent trend observed in hay samples over the past 10 years in Arkansas has been lower protein content of hay.

A key lesson to the 2015 hay sample summary thus far is any given farm should not base winter supplementation decisions on lab test averages (a.k.a. “my hay is average quality”).  Within the 216 samples summarized here, the distribution of protein concentration among samples started at a low of 4% and went as high as 22%.

Climatologists are predicting a strong El Nino to develop which means a warmer and wetter winter.  While warmer sounds favorable toward easier cow maintenance, a wet hair coat will drastically reduce the lower critical temperature for cattle, creating a greater demand for energy in the diet.

As hay harvest is wrapped up, no pun intended, follow up with your county Extension agent to have hay lots analyzed for nutrient content and plan a winter feeding program that won’t compromise cow reproduction or the pocket book.

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