Watch out for Variable Hay Quality

AUSTRALIA - With hay consumption at its seasonal peak and supply tight, dairy farmers are warned to be wary of highly variable quality and are advised to make a visual assessment and obtain a nutritional analysis of the hay prior to buying.
calendar icon 12 July 2012
clock icon 2 minute read

Dairy Australia’s Feed2Milk program manager, Dr Steve Little, cautioned dairy farmers to carefully consider hay quality before buying as a lot of hay currently available was from the 2010 season with highly variable quality, particularly if it has been stored outside.

“Many dairy and beef producers across south eastern Australia are currently sourcing hay supplies which they expect to be feeding into August.”

When buying hay in a tight market, doing a feed budget will prevent buying more or less than will be required. Dr Little suggests doing a feed budget based on realistic estimates of daily cow maintenance energy requirements, feed already on hand, expected pasture growth rates and likely wastage at feedout.

“Look at the nutritional value for money rather than just the price tag. Start with a visual assessment, looking for signs of mould and checking the moisture content,” he said.

High moisture feeds are more susceptible to mould growth before harvest or during storage.

“Various types of moulds produce mycotoxins which can be harmful to cow health and productivity. Avoid buying any mouldy hay, grain or other feed,” Dr Little said.

“If you are happy with the visual assessment of hay, the next step is to send a sample to the lab for nutritional analysis. The results will allow you to decide if the asking price is good value, given its nutritional content.”

For those in a hurry, the RAPID Feed Analysis Service generally provides results in one to two working days (available through dairy companies in Victoria and southern New South Wales).

“Yellow bags for feed samples can be obtained from your factory field officer or transport office.”

Dairy Australia’s website has a feed report tool to help interpret feed analysis results. Visit

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