What’s best for 2019: quality or quantity?

By Kassidy Buse

“Weather permitting, if there was ever a year to focus on hay quality over quantity, this has to be it!” says Stan Smith, Ohio State University extension program assistant in Fairfield County. Some of the reasons for this statement are pretty obvious; others, less so.

A challenging 2018 resulted in not only less than ideal quality hay but also low inventory coming into 2019. In the Ohio Beef Cattle Letter, Smith addresses some points to keep in mind with this upcoming growing season to make both quality and quantity hopefully a reality.

Now that we are near the end of April, cows are in need of feed. To make matters even more complicated, forages have gotten off to a slow start thanks to a harsh spring. “It’s safe to assume first-cutting hay will likely be short due to a late spring,” Smith says.

No matter what the case, hay still needs to be harvested in a timely fashion. The major reason is quality, since no matter how tall grass gets, quality still declines.

Smith adds that inventories also need to be replenished. An early forage cutting will result in aggressive regrowth and hopefully the opportunity for an extra cutting.

What can be done for cows in need of high-quality feed now, especially if you need to breed them back in a timely fashion?

According to Smith, if grazing conditions are less than ideal, cows can be pulled off grass after a quick, initial pass over pastures and then fed some early-made, high-quality hay with additional supplemented energy and/or protein.

When it comes to the debate of what is better for 2019, quality or quantity, Smith’s answer is simply, “We need both!”

Kassidy Buse

Kassidy Buse was the 2018 Hay & Forage Grower summer editorial intern. She is from Bridgewater, S.D., and graduated from Iowa State University with a degree in animal science. Buse is currently attending the University of Nebraska-Lincoln pursuing a master’s degree in ruminant nutrition.