In Texas over the last few years, it’s been either feast or famine when it comes to hay production. But regardless of of how much hay you have available, there is no point wasting any more than you have to. Whether you buy your hay or you grow it yourself, there are costs associated to it. That’s why I personally hate to see hay being wasted.
The process of feeding hay to livestock has a certain element of wastage built into it. But we can take steps to minimize that wastage. Here are three steps that can help you reduce feed hay wastage.
- Proper Hay Storage - Hay left out in the elements will start to decay. While round bales seem to keep a bit better than square bales, both lose quality over time when exposed to sun, rain, sleet, and snow. Some folks have bale wrapping equipment which can enable you to store hay outside. Storing the hay in either indoors or under a shed type structure can protect it from the elements. A permanent structure however does have initial up front costs associated with it, but can be used over and over. A relatively inexpensive, but temporary solution would be to cover the bales with tarps.
- Usage of Hay Rings or Racks - Whether you are feeding round bales to cattle in a pasture or square bales to smaller livestock in pens or stalls, hay rings and hay racks can dramatically reduce wastage. Rings and racks can keep the livestock from stepping on the hay and dramatically reduce fecal contamination. When using rings and racks, the animals are much more likely to use the hay for feed than bedding down in it. The types of racks or rings you would use will be determined on what kind of livestock your are feeding. Due to the fact that hay racks and hay rings restrict some of the access to the hay, be sure to have enough rings or racks to accommodate all of your animals. You might end up putting more hay out when you feed, but that hay should last longer due to the reduced wastage. Since it’s best to make sure the animals have cleaned up most of the hay, you may find that you are feeding hay less than before.
- Choice of Feeding Sites – We all know that it’s not good to feed in muddy areas. But honestly, depending on the weather conditions and time of year, it’s hard not simply create a muddy spot anywhere you choose to feed. You can reduce that by trying to feed in areas that have decent drainage and avoiding feeding in low lying areas. A more costly alternative, but one that could really pay off in the long run, would be to build specific hay feeding areas in your pasture. Base rock layed down on top of heavy landscaping fabric would give you a feeding area that could drain water and be less likely to turn into a mud bog.
By taking action on these three simple concepts you can reduce your hay losses when feeding your livestock. Since most of us need to save money anywhere we can, cutting back on your hay costs is as good a place as any to save a buck or two.