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Producers should rotate hay feeding locations for cattle

Photo by Todd Johnson, OSU Agricultural Communications Services OklahomaState unrolling hay.jpg
Unrolling hay is a recommended management practice this time of year, providing current and future operational benefits.
Continuing to feed hay in same locations can increase concentration of nutrients from hay and animal manure in a small area.

It is not unusual for cattle producers to have favorite hay feeding areas for their livestock, but it is important not to automatically default to locations that may be selected based primarily on convenient access, according to the Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension.

“Continuing to feed hay in the same place, time after time and year after year, can lead to the concentration of a lot of nutrients from the hay and from animal manure and urine, all in a very small area,” said Paul Beck, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension beef cattle specialist and holder of the university’s Dennis & Marta White endowed chair in animal science.

Research trials indicate that there can be 10-20 times more phosphorus, potassium and organic matter in those types of hay feeding areas than in the surrounding pasture, he said.

Beck recommended that producers rotate hay feeding areas and unroll hay across a pasture throughout the winter months to spread out those nutrients.

“Consider the average bermudagrass bale, which is about 8% crude protein, with 1.3% nitrogen, 1.3% potassium and about 0.2% phosphorus -- the equivalent of about 100 lb. of triple 17 fertilizer per round bale,” he said. “That works out to about $30 worth of fertilizer in trying to replace lost nutrients.”

In addition, concentrated hay feeding sites can negatively affect hygiene in those areas during calving, leading to instances of scours and navel ill in calves, Beck said.

“Cows like to calve and then bring their calves to their favorite hay feeding site,” Beck said. “Also, research has shown rolling out hay every day can decrease hay waste from about 50% down to 25%.”

Producers can place a hay bale on a steep hill and roll it down. Some cattle operators push the bale with four-wheelers, while others employ a tractor.

“There are many ways to unroll hay,” Beck said. “Use your imagination. Have some fun while being productive and practicing good management.”

Source: Oklahoma State University, which is solely responsible for the information provided and is wholly owned by the source. Informa Business Media and all its subsidiaries are not responsible for any of the content contained in this information asset.

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