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Timely Tips: Don’t Stop Feeding Hay Too Soon

By   /  March 15, 2021  /  1 Comment

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I wanted to send out a Timely Tips to encourage everyone to feed hay a little longer in the spring to let the grass get a good start. Spring grass is washy with high water content and some hay fed along with it helps to slow the rate of passage, improving digestibility. Also, allowing the grass to get a good start gives you a buffer of extra grass through the year. Typically, I will feed hay into early April.

One Location Feeding

The idea here is to reduce impacts on the pasture which is understandable but not a good plan for profit. The manure value is $20/1000 lb. roll of hay and the cost of reseeding an acre is less than $50/ac, so it’s ideal to feed hay on your most infertile ground. The manure is worth 10 x more than the cost of reseeding the small area impacted by feeding hay across a pasture.

Fenceline feeders are an improvement on one-location feeding because the tractor doesn’t have to enter the field, creating tracks and compacting it. However, it is still a method of one-site feeding, which has some downfalls.

If one hay feeding site is used, choose that site wisely. It should be 300’ or more from drainage ways and other water areas, away from sinks, ditches, and be on a slope of 5% or less. If feeding is done near sensitive areas, it’s potentially an environmental disaster and a contributor to poor water quality and disease. If animals spend their days in mud their energy needs are increased as much as 2x.

These areas need to be sown in something like bermudagrass or tall fescue to reduce weeds and take advantage of nutrients.

Accumulated waste should be gathered and ideally covered by a roof until it is spread on the land. If you have a pad, concrete is the easiest to scrape.  If using a gravel pad, you should leave a couple of inches of manure on the pad to keep from scraping up gravel and spreading it on fields. Since the cost of spreading usually equals the value of the manure, isn’t a great value at this point and we call it waste. Since most of the nitrogen comes from the urine, you’ll lose it to leaching if the manure is left in one place.

Remember, grazing is half the cost of hay. If you feed 3- 1000 lb rolls a day and hay cost is $40/roll, every day you graze instead of feeding hay will save you $120 since the nutrients (N-P-K) in those three rolls are worth about $60.

Wishing you the best, if you have questions, concerns, or rebuttals about anything I have presented respond to me at gregbrann5@gmail.com.  There are many ways to accomplish regenerative grazing.

The next Timely Tips will cover different grazing strategies – so stay tuned!

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About the author

Greg has a BS degree in Plant and Soil Science from the University of TN, Knoxville with special emphasis on animal science and landscape design. He worked as the State Grazing Land Soil Health Specialist for 23 of his 40-year tenure with NRCS. With more than 40 years of land and pasture management, Greg has had the privilege of watching his plans transform land under the great care of land managers. More than 200,000 acres have been transformed by his attentive planning. Greg is a featured speaker at many conferences and grazing schools around the country. His private consulting practice, Synergistic Grazing Management, provides land management planning to farmers, ranchers, land preservation organizations, and public land managers. He has developed land management plans as varied as the 100,000 acres at Fort Campbell Military Base to diversified farms of 25 acres. Looking past symptoms to discover and resolve root issues, his plans provide practical ideas to help you reach your goals. Greg hosts an annual “Pasture Walk” that brings together farmers, researchers, and ag and environmental specialists to maintain a space for difficult discussions and friendly conversations around synergistic land management. His deep understanding of plant communities as indicators of land productivity has made him a stead resource for land owners and managers passionate to understand nature’s ability to regenerate land.

1 Comment

  1. Edward Rayburn says:

    Excellent suggestion.

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