Farmers Should Test Hay to Improve Cattle Health

A Purdue University veterinarian urges livestock farmers to test their hay before relying on it as the sole ration for their cattle this year because a very wet spring delayed some harvests.

Mature hay has less energy than hay cut at earlier maturity and is not likely to adequately support a cow’s nutritional needs during winter, said W. Mark Hilton, clinical professor of food animal production medicine.

He said the only way to know if the hay will meet the nutritional needs is to test it. Livestock farmers can contact their Purdue Extension educator, feed supplier or herd health veterinarian for information on testing.

“We are just starting to receive hay tests from our producers on the Integrated Resource Management program that live all across the state, and the overwhelming majority are deficient in energy,” Hilton said.

If the hay is deficient and is fed as the sole ration, consequences can include:

  • Weak calves at birth.
  • Low quality and quantity of colostrum produced by dams.
  • Increased disease (such as diarrhea and pneumonia in nursing calves).
  • Increased sickness and death of cows in the winter.
  • Poor rebreeding rates on cows.

For farmers finding their hay to be deficient in energy, adding an appropriate amount of high-energy feed can solve the problem and keep cattle healthy, Hilton said. Options for high-energy feed are dried distillers grains with solubles, corn gluten, soyhulls or cracked corn.

Source: Purdue University 

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