Feedstuff inventory: Quality and quantity

Farm Forum

BROOKINGS — A cooler than average growing season should be on forage producers’ minds as they calculate the 2014 feedstuff inventory reviewing quality and quantity.

“Hay inventories for the upcoming winter feeding could fall a bit short in some areas across the state, while other areas have an abundant quantity, but may not have the quality,” said Karla Hernandez, SDSU Extension Forages Field Specialist. “Evaluating the hay feeding system before winter begins will help minimize feeding losses and reduce number of bales of hay needed.”

Hernandez said as these issues factor into planning options, several questions come to mind including:

• What management decisions need to be made to best utilize available feed resources?”

• How much needs to be purchased now and what might be available later in the season?

• Do we have enough stored feed supplies to make it through winter, especially if it is colder than normal?

She added that a simple cattle and feed inventory is valuable when planning this fall and winter’s livestock feeding program. Items Hernandez said should be considered include:

1. Estimate total feed needs for the herd size;

2. Determine available feed supply, type and quantity; and

3. Determine how to adjust for excesses or deficiencies, based on prices.

In order to get a rough estimate of cow hay needs, Hernandez said forage growers need to calculate 3 percent of the average weight of cows.

“This is an approximate amount of feed per cow per day,” she said. “Take this figure multiplied by the number of head and number of days on feed to determine the total need.”

She added that waste needs to be calculated in, “because no matter what type of processing, there will be some loss. For hay, this should be calculated at 10-20 percent,” she said.

Example: (1350 lb cow* 3)/100 =40.5 lbs feed/day *150 head * 180 days * 120% (20% for waste) /2000 lbs per ton=656 ton needed


Forage quality is an important aspect to consider on determining the needed hay supply.

“This is the main reason to test hay before feeding it to livestock. In general terms, feeding livestock with good quality hay will increase production and animal performance,” she said.

Hernandez explained that cheaper hay, that is low forage quality, is generally more mature and provides a lower nutrient dense feed than expensive hay that is higher quality.

However, she said, it may be more cost effective to utilize the cheaper, low quality forage and a protein supplement than to purchase expensive hay. “The question becomes what resources are available on the operation and how can they be utilized, versus what needs to be purchased,” Hernandez said.

For feedstuff inventory, Hernandez said it is important to consider hay storage and feeding methods. “Most of the hay losses will occur when the hay is left outside without protection,” she said.

So, growers who store hay in a barn or under tarps will save around 20 percent more than hay stored outside. She added that the wet and cool temperatures could also affect the quality and quantity of corn silage.

To learn more, visit iGrow.org.