Poor quality hay crop could mean trouble for livestock

Jeff Burbrink

At a recent training, Keith Johnson, Purdue Extension’s forage specialist, warned Extension Educators from around Indiana that the 2019 spring harvested forage crops are lower than normal in quality and, without proper supplements, there could be serious consequences to animal health.

The problem goes back to the rainy weather in May and June. It was difficult if not impossible to harvest in a timely fashion, and much of the forage was very mature when harvested. Mature forages are less digestible because they contain more fiber and lignin. The crop has less energy and protein, and is far less nutritious.

Keith told us that poor laboratory analysis of many of these forages is a big concern. A cow, horse or ewe in early lactation may not be able to consume enough of this forage to meet her needs. As a result, the animal will be starved for nutrients and will likely lose weight and body condition.

What should you do if you own livestock? Get your forages tested by a professional laboratory and then work with a trained nutritionist to develop a plan. It is likely the nutritionist will recommend both protein and energy sources to feed as supplements to the hay.

Accurate results start with a good sample. The National Forage Testing Association has guidelines on sampling forages to follow before you send your sample to a certified lab: www.foragetesting.org/exam-info

Certified labs in Indiana are Sure-Tech Laboratories in Indianapolis and A&L Great Lakes Laboratories in Fort Wayne.  

Jeff Burbrink is an educator with Purdue Extension Elkhart County. He can be reached at 574-533-0554 or jburbrink@purdue.edu

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