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Hay Quality: Figure It Out

November 9, 2017

Below is a figure of hay test results from 5 farms that participated in a recent winter feed meeting.  This figure illustrates a few points.  First, the shapes correspond to different farms.  When figuring out how to supplement during winter, it is important to test all lots of hay separately as they vary in quality.  This will help match hays to feeding groups based on nutrient needs.  Second, the red lines are placed at the requirements for early lactating beef cows when requirements are expressed as a percentage of the diet.  In most cases, hays in Arkansas meet protein and energy needs for non-lactating cows, but many hays will not meet nutrient needs for lactating cows.  Hays in the top right quadrant meet or exceed the needs for lactating cows; whereas hays in the top and bottom left quadrants are either inadequate in energy (total digestible nutrients) or protein plus energy (total digestible nutrients).  Thirdly, the bottom right quadrant represents the most common supplemental feeding error producers make when supplementing without hay test results.  This quadrant represents hays that would be adequate in total digestible nutrients but inadequate in protein.  Supplements such as protein blocks and range meals are designed to correct this type of deficiency; however, we rarely see this type of deficiency in our winter feed meeting program.

Image of graph showing hay quality among farms compared to cow requirements

Hay Meadow Nutrient Depletion when Haying

November 1, 2017

According to Shane Gadberry, beef cattle specialist, “county winter feed meetings are in full swing here in Arkansas.” Dr. Gadberry noted “During a recent meeting, the conversation led from hay quality to fertilization following the statement – producers can’t afford to fertilize according to Extension recommendations.”

Fertilization and haying can become a futile cycle that results in diminishing forage quality over time. This occurs because most cattle operations have a designated hay field. When fertilizer is perceived too expensive, the amount applied is reduced. Over time, to achieve the same yield of bales per acre, harvest is delayed, hay quality suffers and supplemental feed costs rise. Since hay meadows are often dedicated fields, nutrients from hay feeding are seldom recycled to the hay meadow, creating a need to amend the soils with commercial fertilizers or animal manures.

So, how much fertilizer equivalent does haying carry from the hay field?

image showing nitrogen and potassium removal with hay

According to Dr. Gadberry, “The math illustrating the amount of ammonium nitrate (40.6 lb/bale) and potash (21.8 lb/bale) equivalently removed per bale and from hay meadows annually was alarming to the producer group.”

Don’t get caught in the ↓fertilizer – ↑harvest interval – ↓hay quality – ↑supplemental feed cycle. Use soil nutrient testing as a tool to determine N-P-K fertilizer needs. If soils have been depleted in nutrients over time, rebuilding in addition to replacing may be needed to restore field productivity and hay quality. Forage specialist, Dr. John Jennings, indicated “fertilizer prices are cheaper now than they have been in several years; it is a good time to catch up.”

Extension Launches Webpage Devoted to Cattle Working Facilities

October 5, 2017

The keystone of good animal welfare and beef quality assurance is cattle working facilities.  University of Arkansas’s beef cattle specialist, Shane Gadberry, working alongside county Extension agents across the state with support of the Arkansas Beef Checkoff are working together to bring a new perspective to this topic.  The webpage is a go to source to download the Extension publication, Cattle Working Facilities (MP239).  The webpage also provides details on pen size, feed bunk space, and shade area.  There are also links to equipment manufacturers.   The new perspective this webpage is offering is being captured at 50 to 250 foot above the ground.  The webpage connects visitors to video footage and still aerial images of working facilities captured using the Animal Science Department’s drone.  Anyone planning to build or update their facility can watch videos to get a birds-eye view of facility layouts other producers around the state have envisioned.  Dr. Gadberry sees this as just the beginning of what can be a very useful site.  The goal is to capture facilities that have some practical aspects and offer examples scaled from the smallest to very large operations.  Topography and existing infrastructure prohibits a one-size fits all approach to designs.  The goal with this project is to illustrate what others have done so their fellow cattle producers can glean from those ideas and adapt what fits their operation.  The web address is  . A person can navigate to the site by going to and click on the Farm & Ranch – Animals and Forages link then using the left navigation pane click the Beef Cattle – Beef Cattle Handling Facilities link.

How are you planning to feed hay this winter?

September 28, 2017
Feeding hay without the protection of feeders can result in 20% or greater hay waste. This can increase the cost of hay consumed by more than $30 per cow over winter. Consider using a bale feeder that has a metal sheet around the bottom or a feeder that cradles the hay in the center of the feeder to minimize waste. Unrolling hay is a good way to prevent excessive mud bog and disperse nutrients; however, UA demonstrations have estimated as much as 15% waste with unrolling. To reduce waste with unrolling hay, producers have devised methods to control waste. One method includes limiting the amount unrolled to no more than what is estimated based the herds daily intake. Another method involves placing a single strand electrified polywire down the middle of the unrolled hay swath causing the herd to stand and eat at the swath like standing at a trough, and the electrified wire also helps prevent cows using the swath for bedding.DSCN1156

What does a bale of hay weigh?

September 27, 2017

This 4×5 round bale of mostly bermudagrass weighed 730 lbs.  Other bales in the lot weighed from 718 to 756lbs.  This bale will feed one beef cow for approximately 22 days (assuming 20% feeding waste). file

Tissue Sampling Unit

September 22, 2017

Shane Gadberry demonstrates using a Tissue Sampling Unit for rapid collection of samples for DNA testing.


SWREC will host a Field Day in conjunction with Southeast Select Sires

September 22, 2017

On October 24th the SWREC will host a Field Day in conjunction with Southeast Select Sires. We will show some results from a demonstration we have been collaborating on with Select Sires. Herd Sires from SE Select Sires have been used to AI the SWREC cowherd for the last 2 years. Progeny from these matings will be shown and presentations will include the Economic and Production Advantages of AI and Preseason Breeding Checklist and Synch Protocols how to choose the right one.

2017 Select Sires Field Day Hope Oct 24th