Reducing hay waste is the goal every winter, but especially in years with drought and hay shortages. As supply continues to shrink and demand increases, hay is more expensive this year than it has been in some past years combined.
Hay prices in 2022 are $80 to $150 per ton higher than in 2021.
According to the USDA report for April 2022, in Minnesota alone, April hay prices averaged $181.00 per ton. This was $7 above the March price and $44 above the April 2021 price. April 2022 alfalfa hay price was $191, $11 above the previous month and $39 above April 2021. The average price for other hay in April was $160 per ton. This was $6 above the March price and $73 above April last year.
Here are three ways farmers and ranchers can reduce hay waste and help save on hay prices this year.
3 Tips to Reduce Hay Waste:
1. Limit Feeding Hay
A popular method for winter feeding is to roll bales out and feed loose hay on the ground. The University of Missouri finds that this method can result in around 40% waste. Instead, cattlemen should limit feeding hay which means only putting out enough hay for about 8-10 hours. Roll out part of the bale and portion a section for the day. This will force cattle to eat the restricted amount of hay and reduce sorting and waste.
2. Use a Cone Hay Feeder
Hay feeders help reduce waste and costs associated with harvested forages. Researchers at Oklahoma State University compared common hay feeders and measured the amount of waste. Results showed that hay waste was lowest for cone feeders, while the sheet ring and poly feeders had the highest waste percentage. Waste was 5.3% for cone feeders, 20.5% for ring feeders and 21% for poly feeders.
The hay waste value was calculated by using the following assumptions: a producer with 30 cows will feed 180 bales of hay that weigh 1,200 pounds each during a six-month period. The study concluded that at $70 per bale, the cone feeder would annually waste $667.80 worth of hay, while the sheet ring and poly feeders would waste $2,583 and $2,646 worth of hay, respectively. These prices would be substantially higher this year.
3. Process Hay
Grinding or chopping hay can also help reduce waste. Ground hay prevents cattle from trampling and sorting. Grinding hay also helps make lower-quality feed more palatable. This way cattlemen can mix the long-stemmed hay cattle usually refuse to eat into a ration they will consume. When grinding hay, make sure to feed in bunks or turned tires to minimize losses from wind. Grinding hay does require an investment in equipment or contracting custom tub grinders.
How a Central South Dakota Rancher Preserves & Grinds Hay Easier
In central South Dakota, it’s cow country. And where there’s cows, there’s hay.
Todd, a Central South Dakota rancher, tried a dry granular hay preservative to help save more bales and reduce spoilage. This image and testimonial were his results.
“Treated bales were so much greener when I rolled them out or ground them, and they grind way easier. I applied Anchor at 18% moisture in August and opened the bales mid-November to green alfalfa. Anchor is a great product. It doesn’t rust my baler and the Valmar applicator is easy to use.”