Hay inventories are being scrutinized by Midwestern livestock producers as colder-than-normal temps and snow have kept animals from grazing stockpiled pasture and corn residue.
A cold and snowy start to winter has livestock producers in the Midwest looking closer at feed inventories. Many wonder if they’ll have enough feed to carry through to the new crop hay harvest, says Jerry Lindquist, forage educator with Michigan State University.
Last fall, many livestock farms in the region were “cautiously optimistic” about winter feed supplies, says Lindquist. But a colder-than-normal and snowy December, followed by more of the same in January, has changed the outlook.
“Farms that were hoping to graze stockpiled pasture forages and corn-stubble fields into the new year had to bring the cows home early.” Some were also hoping to harvest cornstalk bales for feed, but because of the late-maturing corn crop and early December snows, they weren’t able to, he says.
Many farms also had to increase hay consumption. “Studies show that ruminate animals will increase forage consumption from 5% to 15% when air temps drop below 20° F,” notes Lindquist. “The lower the air temperature drops, the more they will consume up to a maximum point of around 15% above normal.”
His bottom line: “If winter lingers, it could lead to a late round of hay buying as livestock owners stretch feed supplies to get to green grass.”
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