whats the best kind of hay for cows?

Discussion in 'Cattle' started by darbyfamily, Mar 18, 2008.

  1. darbyfamily

    darbyfamily Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    922
    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2005
    Location:
    Kansas
    Brome?

    just ordinary hay?

    I found brome in my area for a decent price, but I dont know which is the best...

    dumb city girl question..

    straw is for bedding... .HAY is for food, right? :D
     
  2. ksfarmer

    ksfarmer Retired farmer-rancher

    Messages:
    2,979
    Joined:
    Apr 27, 2007
    Location:
    north-central Kansas
    It makes a lot of difference in the quality according to the timing of haying. Neither is very good if it is too mature when cut. It gets stemmy and coarse. Good quality fine stem native grass hay and good quality brome hay are about equal in value. However, my beef cows seem to have a preference for brome hay if they are given the choice. :cow:
     

  3. randiliana

    randiliana Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    827
    Joined:
    Feb 22, 2008
    Location:
    Saskatchewan, Canada
    Brome, Crested Wheat, Alfalfa, and a hundred others will work just fine. There is no one hay that is better than the other. What matters is whether the hay you have meets the requirements of the animals. Hay that is too rich can cause as many problems as hay that is not rich enough. Beef cattle require between 8% and 11% Cp (crude protien) less when they are dry, and more when they are milking. Extra protein will simply be excreted. That is the main thing you need to pay attention to, although there are others. Here is a good link to the nutrient requirements for beef cattle.

    http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/ansci/beef/eb74w.htm

    Hay is for food, straw is for bedding, although if you can feed straw, as long as you are feeding enough other good quality feed to meet the nutrient requirements of the cow.

    Brome hay will work just fine for you. It may be a little lower in protien than alfalfa. We rarely test our feed, most feed put up in decent condition will meet the requirements of a cow.
     
  4. Chixarecute

    Chixarecute Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    3,008
    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2004
    Location:
    Wisconsin by the UP, eh!
    Yes, straw is bedding and hay is food. Not that they won't try to eat the straw :)

    Straw is what is left after you take off the grains of oats, rye, barley, wheat, etc.

    Hay is made from stands of legumes (alfalfa, clover, birdsfoot trefoil, etc) and /or grasses like brome, timothy, orchardgrass, etc.

    Grass hays usually have less protein than legume hays, my memory is rusty here, but grass hay tests around 6-10% protein, really nice alfalfa can test over 20% protein, although that is usually as silage or baleage rather than hay. Late alfalfas (cut late in flower maturity) might go 10-12% protein, alfalfa cut early flower/maturity will be 14-18% protein.

    So, what you want will depend upon your needs...you can grow beef with a lower protein hay(8-12%), but dairy generally wants higher (14%+). And for both, the higher the better.

    And, you can supplement hay with grain mix to bring up the protein, but cows are ruminants, built to digest forages best, and you can NEVER feed enough grain mix to "make up" for poor quality hay. (the more grain you feed, the more acid the rumen, the less good bacterial action you get to help the cow digest, and in the case of a milk cow, butterfat content drops way low.)

    Years ago, youngstock always got the poorest quality forage, now we know better, and realize you can't shortchange them while they are growing & expect a quality milker/carcass when they are grown.

    Anyway, you can ask the grower if the hay has been tested for protein content. Regardless of the protein, the hay should look "fresh dried" (light green), and smell good with no hint of mustiness, mold, animal urine (cats, coons) etc. (The outside of the hay might be faded, so ask if you can open a bale to see the interior.)

    The hay should also be low in weed content...dandelion, thistles, burdock, sticks/branches, swamp grass...Another plus is that low-weed hays will have less weed seed in them, and hence less weed seed in your pasture to sprout...

    If you are buying grass hay, look for those nice wide blades, the leaves of the grass, not just the stems. If you lean towards legume hays, you'll see more course stem, but there should still be a very high percentage of leaves...if the leaves are shattering (falling off the stem), the hay was left to dry too long. Not that the cows can't slick up the leaves...but much will be lost in the wind if you are feeding out of doors rather than indoors in a bunk or manger. The protein is all in the leaves, not the stems.

    Regardless, once you find a good source of hay, try to buy all your hay from that supplier, appraise him/her of your needs and see if he is willing to be your annual supplier....ie 10 bales per month or whatever. This way, you can be assured of reasonable, consistent quality and not upset your cows digestive systems.

    Long indirect answer for a short & direct question...so, umm, yes, the brome could be fine, depending on what you need it for...
     
  5. darbyfamily

    darbyfamily Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    922
    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2005
    Location:
    Kansas
    The ad I saw for it says "horse quality" brome hay... Apparently horses are a bit snobby about their hay???

    THANKS for the info!!!!
     
  6. translplant

    translplant Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    151
    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2005
    Location:
    Vanleer, Tennessee
    Maybe not the horses so much as the owners....

    Just kidding.

    Jennifer, I know you are going to do just fine once those cows get to your place. You're going to be so surprised how naturally everything settles in. Get yourself a good vet, make pals with some good neighbors who know a thing or two and have a book or two on hand for some of the technical stuff. A good feed store or co-op (something a step above TFC if you can) and you'll be sitting pretty.

    Linda/Cloverbell
     
  7. translplant

    translplant Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    151
    Joined:
    Sep 27, 2005
    Location:
    Vanleer, Tennessee
    I meant to type TSC. I'm not a big fan.
     
  8. agmantoo

    agmantoo agmantoo Supporter

    Messages:
    10,837
    Joined:
    May 22, 2003
    Location:
    Zone 7
    dandelion is only a weed to those that do not know its attributes!
     
  9. michiganfarmer

    michiganfarmer Max Supporter

    Messages:
    6,598
    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2005
    Location:
    Near Traverse City Michigan
    we have always planted a mix of alfafa, and brome. We plant 15-20 lb of alfalfa per acre, and 3-6 lb of brome per acre
     
  10. darbyfamily

    darbyfamily Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    922
    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2005
    Location:
    Kansas
    Thank you :) I know you're right... I remember being this way about chickens, making everything SOOOO hard, to get it all just right, but once they were here, it was not that hard at all.

    Thankfully, we've got a GREAT co-op here and already David there at the Co-op has been more than helpful with the pigs and their feed and such. He gave me the name of another 4H family and that dad pointed me in the direction of the best large animal vet in the area, and we're going to our first 4H meeting in these parts in a couple of weeks.

    I've got a friend who raises longhorns who's in our homeschool group, and she's a great asset too :)

    I just need to relax and enjoy the girlys.

    :giggle: and I had to wonder if it was "tractor fried chicken" or if that was a typo...LOL

    we dont have a TSC here, but we do have an Orshlens... I think they're a little better than tsc, but still a chain with 'joe schmoes' who often know little about actually raising animals.

    my best resource so far though... Homesteading today!!! (hugs)
     
  11. darbyfamily

    darbyfamily Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    922
    Joined:
    Mar 16, 2005
    Location:
    Kansas
    I've heard people comment that alfalfa comes through in the milk with some goats and maybe cows too... (dunno)
     
  12. Up North

    Up North KS dairy farmers

    Messages:
    3,841
    Joined:
    Nov 28, 2005
    Location:
    KS
    Regional availability plays a large role in what hay can be purchased. In our area, the choices are Alfalfa, Prairie Hay, Brome, Haygrazer(a sorghum-sudan hybrid) Crabgrass, Oat Hay.
    Alfalfa is great stuff but you would not want to feed just alfalfa for two reasons: One it's expensive,and two most Kansas alfalfa is too rich a feed to be fed as sole diet.
    Prairie Hay that was baled without rain would, IMO be your best option for a balance of price, quality, and availability. Fed along with some grain or cubes, it would suffice for a homestead milk cow or beef animals.
    Brome is comparable in feed value to Prairie Hay...IF harvested early enough and without rain. The lion's share of 2007 Brome hay in our area was either rained on or harvested too late due to the heavy rains in June and July 2007.
    Haygrazer is generally grown to get large volume of feed per acre. It's ok, but tends to hay more large stems and stalks(less palatable) and is primarily used as roughage for beef cattle.
    Crabgrass can be extremely good feed or extremely poor feed, just depending on the stage of maturity it was harvested at. Unless you know the person who baled it or it has been tested for feed value,I would shy away from buying crabgrass bales.
    Oat Hay is good if harvested without rain and timely. Less of that around though.
    The two factors most affecting hay quality is 1.) Was it harvested early in the season?and 2.) was it baled without being rained on?

    The good news is that we are fortunate that due to all the rains in 2007, there is still lots of hay available in our area at reasonable prices. Other areas of the country were not so fortunate.
     
  13. JeffNY

    JeffNY Seeking Type

    Messages:
    2,102
    Joined:
    Dec 13, 2004
    Location:
    New York
    The baleage kind is the best hay, no matter what type. Orchard grass, timothy, alfalfa, or regular 2nd cut grass. They eat it all, they condition well off of it, etc etc. It is heavy stuff, however if you have a means to roll it to where you need it, then flake off of it. I love the stuff, and would not feed anything else.


    There is good and bad baleage, the key is to buy stuff that has been wrapped atleast 24 revolutions (24 times approx, adds about 6 layers). It runs between 35-55 or so a bale. But you wont see much waste if any.


    Jeff
     
  14. Chixarecute

    Chixarecute Well-Known Member Supporter

    Messages:
    3,008
    Joined:
    Nov 19, 2004
    Location:
    Wisconsin by the UP, eh!
    Horses don't tolerate dust/molds as well as ruminants do. Definition of "horse hay" does vary by grower, however. I would ask.

    a good alfalfa/grass blend hay won't "come through" in the cow milk flavor. but DH says green (fresh) alfalfa will. Most commercial dairies feed their milking string very high alfalfa content. (I think it's the plastic jugs that make it taste so bad!) I don't know about goats.

    Dandelion is a wonderful feed, pretty good protein, but it can be gone to seed by the time first cutting of hay happens (protein drop), and the crowns tend to spread & smother out the growth of other grasses/legumes.

    Sorry to go off on a tangent here, but consider having magnets put in your cows' rumens (if there aren't already). It's a low cost investment ($5-$10), and may help prevent your cattle getting "hardware" disease from swallowing bits of metal (& then puncturing the stomach) that may have been baled up. ie barbed wire from an old fenceline that the tractor/mower/baler got in to on the field edge.