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Hay is for Horses

Posted May 31, 1998

Many people consider feeding hay to be a necessary cost in any livestock operation. But do they really know the actual cost of substituting hay for a lack or absence of forage in their pastures?

The chart to the left shows the primary nutrients needed to supply 1 ton of Bermudagrass hay as well as the cost or value of these nutrients.

As you can see, the cost or value of the primary nutrients in a typical Bermudagrass round bale is $13.68. If you add to this the cost of baling, approximately $14.00 per round bale, then your cost for a 1200 lb. round bale is now $27.68. And this cost doesn't include the time, labor, and money you spend to move this hay to the stack lot and then back out to the cow. Let's just say, for fun, this costs $2.32 per bale to round us off at $30.00.

But wait, there's more!!! What about the cost associated with storage? It is estimated that even under the best conditions, hay put up at proper moisture levels and stored inside, dry matter losses can be as great as 5%. If stored outside or baled at improper moisture levels, the loss can be several times higher. This could easily cost you another $6.00 per bale, now bringing the total cost to $36.00 per bale.

Last but certainly not least, what happens when we feed this hay to our cows? How much of it does she actually put in her stomach? It is estimated that feeding losses can range from 2% to as high as 60% depending on the feeding method, timing, weather conditions, number of animals being fed, and forage quality. I think another $4.00 per bale would be a conservative estimate which now brings us to a grand total of $40.00 per 1200 lb. round bale.

OUCH!!! Now let's put this into perspective. How much does it cost you per cow?

I would never tell you it's wrong to feed hay, but I will tell you it can be very expensive if not done properly.