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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Where is the Hay?

Monday, December 3, 2007

Hay supplies are extremely tight and hay prices reflect that demand being higher than any time in my memory. Desperate times has resulted in material being sold as hay that otherwise would never have been considered as hay. Visit

www.agry.purdue.edu/ext/forages/links.ht... to find or sell hay using the Purdue Hay Locator or the Internet Hay Exchange. Areas in northwest Illinois and southern Wisconsin were reported to have had good hay crops.

While asking around, it seems that a semi could haul 700 small square bales and that the cost would run about $2 to $2.50 per mile. Given a round trip from this area to southern Wisconsin would be about 700 miles, this would add about $2 per bale to ship hay here. If a back haul could be found, this cost could be cut to about $1 per bale.

With hay being so expensive, it is important for one to know what he or she is buying.

Regardless of the form of the forage, the eye, ear, nose, mouth and touch appraisal of hay is not adequate to predict nutrient composition and quality. However once the factors that determine forage quality have been measured through proper sampling and testing, a more accurate ration can be formulated to meet individual needs. Methods of estimating or analytically determining nutrient content of forages include visual appraisal, chemical analysis, and near infrared reflectance spectroscopy. Each method has strengths and weaknesses for use in selecting hay for your species.

Visual appraisal is the oldest and most common method of selecting hay. Forage appearance is evaluated by color, leafiness, maturity, and the presence of foreign material (insects, weeds, and dust). The texture of the hay involves stem coarseness and maturity of heads; odor indicates mold or weed presence. Visual appraisal is very subjective and no two people will evaluate the same hay exactly the same way. It is very difficult to communicate descriptive terms when using this method. Even though visual appraisal is quick and inexpensive, color, texture, and odor do not necessarily relate to nutrient composition.

Chemical analysis is the most accurate method to assess nutrient make-up. The chemical analysis of forage identifies nutritionally strong and weak points so that proper supplementation can be planned. This method is the most accurate, but it is expensive and the turn-around time for results is slow. Horse managers may need to know the levels of trace minerals or vitamins and only a chemical analysis provides that information.

Near Infrared Reflectance Spectroscopy (NIRS) is a quicker and less expensive method to determine the major chemical constituents in forages. The major organic components of forage have specific absorption characteristics in the near-infrared region of the spectrum that make their identification and measurement possible through mathematical relationships. The forage can be analyzed in less than ten minutes. NIRS is the method of estimating composition that is accurate and has the shortest turn-around time.

Taking a representative sample is essential if forage testing is to be of value. The samples must be taken at the right time and from locations representing the hay being analyzed. The proper time to sample forages is as near as possible to the planned time of feeding.

One week for NIRS analysis and three weeks for chemical analysis should be allowed. Both Clay and Owen County Purdue Extension offices have a forage probe that fits onto a drill that can be checked out. A minimum of 20 average looking conventional square bales or ten big round bales should be used.

Take one core drilling from the end of each square bale, place drillings in a clean plastic bucket, thoroughly mix drillings from all 20 bales together, put one quart in a plastic bag and send to a laboratory.

If there are several lots of hay from different fields, cuttings, or sources, then each lot should be sampled and submitted separately. To find a certified lab, visit www.forage-tesing.org/index.php?page=cer...

The NIRS analysis report provides the percent Crude Protein (CP), Dry Matter (DM), Calcium (Ca), Potassium (K), and Phosphorus (P), Acid Detergent Fiber (ADF), Neutral Detergent Fiber (NDF), and Relative Feeding Value (RFV).

Dry matter measures the amount of water in a sample and is subtracted from 100. Most hays will be about 90 percent dry matter. Crude protein indicates only the level of amino acids and total nitrogen in the forage. It is not a good predictor of energy availability in the hay. Levels of Ca, P, and K indicate the percent of these minerals in the forage. These can vary greatly and levels in the forage should determine the minerals needed in the concentrate mixture.

ADF is composed of cellulose, lignin, and other poorly digested components. Lower ADF values indicate more digestible the nutrients in the hay. Levels above 45 percent are of little nutritional value and samples with less than 31 percent ADF are excellent. Higher NDF percents result in lesser hay consumption. NDF levels below 40 are excellent and those above 65 may not be eaten by some species (esp. horses). A high relative feeding value (RFV) reflects higher quality, greater intake, higher digestibility, and fewer concentrates needed to supplement the diet. When buying horse hay, RFV should be a prime consideration.

You can contact the local Purdue Extension Office by calling 829-5020 x14 in Owen County or 448-9041 in Clay County for more information or publication copies regarding this week's column topic or to RSVP for upcoming events. Please call first to assure items are ready when you arrive and to RSVP for programs.

While most publications are free, some do have a fee. All times listed are Eastern Time.

Upcoming Events

Dec. 4 Bi-State Crops Conference, Beef House-Covington, 9 AM

Dec. 6 Private Applicator Recertification Program, Brazil

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