Know The Quality Of Your Hay Gary Bates, Forage Specialist, The University of Tennessee Ag. Extension Service For many forage producers, summer is a slow time. There are not a lot of things that have to be done, other than praying for rain. Tall fescue fields don't need to be fertilized or mowed for hay. In fact, the biggest thing that needs to be done is praying for rain. Now is a good time to get a forage test run on the hay cut in spring. Everyone has the goal of cutting hay when it is high quality. This is not always possible, however delayed cutting because of rain, or rain damage during drying can cause a reduction in forage quality. The question then becomes whether the hay is good enough to meet the needs of the animal it is fed to. The only way to know is to have a forage test run. This will show you the amount of protein and energy contained in the hay, and will provide the information necessary to determine if supplements need to be fed to provide a balanced ration. A forage test is important for a winter feeding program. Even though visually evaluating hay can give clues as to the quality of hay, there is no way to know without testing. The University of Tennessee has a forage testing laboratory that can analyze hay samples for protein, fiber and energy. Testing a sample from each cutting of hay can help in deciding which cutting to feed at which time of the year. The poorer quality hay should be fed early in gestation, and then as requirements increase, either supplementation or a higher quality hay can be fed. Improving your operation means you may have to improve your nutrition program. Get the most out of your animals providing the nutrients they need. Cutting their nutrition means cutting their production. Contact your local Extension office for more information about forage testing. Always keep in mind the quality of the forage that you are feeding.
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