Hay availability in Henry County and Kentucky may be short this winter because of weather events—last year’s drought, this year’s early record rainfall, and this year’s summer drought—both hay quality and yield are down. Some effort at conservation and planning will help make hay last longer through the winter.
Store hay inside a barn or other structure where it will remain dry. Hay testing is the first step to knowing how much will be necessary to meet the nutritional needs of the animals to be fed, from horses to cattle to goats.
Hay is typically fed from mid-December until mid-March, approximately 110 days, though that will vary due to weather, pasture conditions, and the needs of different animals.
To determine hay needs:
• Calculate the number of days animals will need feed.
• Weigh a random sample of bales so you know the average weight of your bales, using scales at feed mills or truck stops.
• With the results of the hay test, calculate how many pounds each animal will need daily.
• Arrive at a grand total of how much hay the herd will require over the winter.
Forward planning and good management practices will help ensure an adequate hay supply during the winter. A tight supply, plus possible hay purchases from bordering states, may possibly elevate what are already high prices..
Grazing management for the fall
We always get a lot of questions about grazing fields with Johnsongrass or Sorghum-Sudan Hybrids during the fall, in particular about the possibility of Prussic Acid Poisoning to frosted forage plants. One good way to manage around the problem is to go ahead and graze any field with these grasses now, before frost occurs. You’ll not only get to utilize a good feed, but your regular pasture and hay fields will get a rest and be able to produce more feed to take you later into the winter feeding season.
After mid-September, alfalfa should be left alone until the first week or so of November. In terms of plant health and stand longevity, this six-week period of rest and growth is extremely important. After the first week of November, the alfalfa can be grazed or put up as hay.
If you haven’t had cattle on a grass field for the past month or so, and can keep them off a bit longer, you are in the process of ‘stockpiling’ some of the best feed you’ll have for the winter, even if it is only fescue. Fescue growth at this time of year is highly nutritious, and since there is no seedhead, the amount and effect of endophyte is very low.