|For What It's Worth|
|Use Hay? Then Reduce Waste|
Hay is probably the second most economical source of nutrition for your livestock. Forages are the most practical source of nutrition and grains are the most expensive, but those are another article to themselves. My question to you is "What are you doing to effectively utilize hay and minimize waste?" In this article, I would like to share with you what I think is one of the most effective ways to contain round bales of hay, efficiently feed livestock and minimize waste.
Some of you are already familiar with this product and utilize one of these devices, but many of you will want to take note and build or acquire one. Based on my short-term experience, one of these is the most efficient way to feed round bales of hay to livestock and minimize waste. But first let’s discuss the implications of wasted hay.
In the past, some of my articles have talked about various ways to store and protect round bales of hay by housing them in a simple pole barn, placing them on pallets or tires, and covering them with tarps if stored outside. Based on information from various publications (found on the Internet), the outer layers of a round bale are the biggest portion of the entire bale.
According to a paper published by the University of Illinois Extension Service: "In areas of high or frequent rainfall, storage method can make the difference between less than 5 percent, or more than 50 percent, digestible matter (DM) loss from weathering."
Weathering being exposure to the elements; continuous exposure to sunlight and moisture can deteriorate the nutritional quality of hay, lead to decay and wasted hay, and, if continuous moisture facilitates the development of mold, it can be toxic to livestock.
So, how much waste and its economic implications are we talking about?
That depends on varying conditions. Storage time, annual rainfall and average humidity levels directly affect the rate of deterioration. The weathering process occurs slowly in the outer layer, but as more moisture is retained, less drying occurs between rains. Losses of more than 14 percent of the soluble protein and more than 25 percent of the total digestible nutrients can occur in the most highly weathered portions of the bale. With DM losses of 33 percent, the cost of replacing the lost crude protein (8 percent loss) and total digestible nutrients (55 percent loss) could be as much as $22/bale.2
A publication from North Dakota State University stated the outside four inches of a round bale comprise 25 percent of the bale, the outer eight inches comprise 33 percent of a round bale, and the outer twelve inches comprise 50 percent of a round bale. For the sake of easy calculation, let’s assume a round bale weighs 1,000 pounds and has a retail value of $40. That gives our round bale the value of 40¢ per pound. To lose the outlying four inches would mean losing $10, to lose the outer eight inches would mean losing $13.30 and losing the outer twelve inches would mean losing half the bale or $20.
Take a look at the pictures; the use of a hay cradle to feed hay versus on-ground feeding is a new concept to me, but the experience was impressive. The benefits of a hay cradle based on my experience are: (1) It keeps the bale off the ground and minimizes trampling or contamination (urination or defecation) of the hay, (2) it minimizes retained moisture, thereby reducing further decay, and (3) animals are able to access and consume hay falling from the round bale. All these serve to maximize efficiencies and minimize losses, keeping a few extra dollars in my bank account.
To carry this further would require estimating how many round bales of hay are provided to your animals on a monthly basis. Only you can answer how much hay/money is wasted on your farm, situations will vary from farm to farm. If you are feeding round bales on a weekly or biweekly basis, you can begin to see where waste/loses will accumulate quickly.
Let me repeat my initial question, "What are you doing to effectively utilize hay and minimize waste?" I will be the first to admit round bales are an easy way to feed livestock whether it is goats, sheep, cattle or horses; but hay fed on the ground is wasted hay and wasted money. With the right management you can efficiently feed your animals, minimize waste and minimize the amount of work on yourself.
Contact your local Quality Co-op to see how they can help you.
Robert Spencer is a contributing writer from Florence.