Hay Quality

Wednesday 9 October 2013

cowsinpaddockHay as a feed resource forms an integral part of a ruminant’s diet. Hay is a form of feed that represents a bulk portion to the diet, thereby delivering “rumen fill” and most importantly fibre for optimum functioning of rumen and sound rumen health.

Hay quality can be viewed both in terms of nutritional value, and in terms of its complimentary value to the ruminant diet.  Conversely, dairy-beef-sheep producers have to evaluate the trade-off between hay quantity (the number of round or square bales especially in a tough year) and hay quality (the ultimate nutritional benefits when fed to ruminants).

There is no unique prescription for hay quality. Nevertheless, hay quality is paramount when animal performance matters. Quality criteria such as a good balance of Metabolisable Energy and Protein, not too high Neutral Detergent Fibre or ‘NDF’ (>45%), good level of water-soluble carbohydrate for cereal and oaten hay; free from weather damage, dust and mould are always important. In summer months, high protein hay is useful to balance the overall ration and increase ration digestibility. In spring months, early cut reasonable NDF percentage (35%-40%) cereal hay may be beneficial in promoting hay intake and thereby avoid low milk fat % on spring pasture.

We cannot control weather condition around hay making season but we can decide to cut for hay when the pasture and grass quality is at its maximum. 

If you’re unsure of the quality of your hay this season, arrange a discussion with your CopRice nutritionist and have your hay analysed to allow for a more accurate and effective feeding program.