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Virginia Cooperative Extension -
 Knowledge for the CommonWealth

Stretching Hay Supplies

Livestock Update, October 1998

John B. Hall, Extension Animal Scientist, Beef, Animal and Poultry Sciences, Virginia Tech

Hay and pasture may be in short supply this winter due to the drought the last half of the summer and the poor growing conditions early this fall. As a result beef producers may need to "stretch" their hay supplies to make them last the entire winter. Since many grains and by-products are a good buy this year, hay - concentrate combinations may be cheaper than buying and feeding additional hay.

In cow rations, grains and by-products can substitute up to 50% of the hay in the diet without causing any digestive problems. At the level of 50% or less concentrate (grains and protein supplements), experience feeding high grain diets is not needed; any body can feed these diet without problems. Barley, corn, soy hulls, gluten feed and other by-products are all good choices this year due to price.

Some examples of diets for 1200 lb cows with good milking ability are given in the table below. Hay in the following table is 50% TDN and 10 % Crude protein.

Production stageDietCost
Dry Cow, last trimester of pregnancy22 lbs hay + 5.5 lbs soy hulls or barley and free choice minera
5 lbs hay + 22-24 lbs of a 80% poultry litter 20 % corn mix and minerals for use with poultry litter
65 /day

62 /day
Lactating cow, 1st 3 months of lactation 17.5 lbs hay + 14.5 lbs soy hulls or barley and free choice mineral
16.5 lbs hay + 13.5 corn + 2.2 lbs soybean meal and free choice minera
5lbs hay + 24-28 lbs of a 80% poultry litter 20 % corn mix and minerals for use with poultry litter
78 - 89 /day

$ 1.19/day

71 /day

The diets in the table above are examples. Actual feed analysis of hay and by-products are needed to calculate actual feed required for a specific herd. In addition, a good estimate of cow weight is also needed. Contact you extension agent or nutritionist for exact diets for your herd.

Keeping cows in good body condition is essential for health calves and high conception rates. These limited hay diets can keep you from having problem this winter and next spring due to short hay supplies.

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