Cattle prefer afternoon- vs. morning-cut hay, but maceration has no effect on the palatability of either forage, a Canadian study shows.

Half of a trefoil-grass field was cut at 6 p.m. with a mower-conditioner, and half of that forage was macerated 12 hours later. The other half of the field was cut at 6 a.m. the next morning and 50% of the hay was macerated four hours later. The four hays were field dried, baled at the same time and chopped before feeding.

Two feeding trials were conducted with the same six growing steers. Every possible combination pair of hays was randomly presented to each steer over six consecutive days. Dry matter intake was measured after two, four, eight and 24 hours.

During the first trial, the steers showed a preference for afternoon-cut hay at every time point. Dry matter intake was 222, 177, 133 and 38% higher for that hay than for morning-cut hay at two, four, eight and 24 hours, respectively.

In the second trial five months later, cutting time didn't affect intake overall, but there was a significant benefit for afternoon-cut hay after two, four and eight hours. Maceration had no effect on intake of morning- or afternoon-cut hay in either trial, the researchers report.