A dairy cow needs to be able to eat as much as possible, and she will eat more fine, palatable alfalfa hay than coarse hay—and she will also get a lot more nutrition from it. This miniature cow is a cross between some of the best of both worlds. But all hay tends to weather because the sun bleaches the outside of the bales. When making this decision, you need to review not only the economics of raising your own alfalfa, but also whether you have the land and labor resources to devote to raising alfalfa hay, baleage, or silage. These cuttings are too rich (too many nutrients per pound, with very little fiber) for most horses, unless you are just adding a little bit of it to the diet of a young orphan foal or an older horse that has poor teeth and cannot chew stemmy hay. Palatability is also important to encourage consumption. Alfalfa is beneficial because it is an excellent source of both dietary energy and protein, and it has more digestible fiber and higher mineral content. Even if the outer edge of a bale has faded from sun exposure and rain, the inside should still be green. The Yule Goat: A Caprine-Themed Holiday Tradition, Stable Root Cellar Conditions Treat Your Vegetables Right, Produce Profile: Growing Sage Is Just Smart, Spotlighting Babydoll Southdown Sheep & Knitted Goods At Timber Creek Farm. On the flip side, cow hay could mean dairy-quality alfalfa, a pure legume forage that is rich in protein, often over 25%, and therefore inappropriate for most classes of horses. Your email address will not be published. Most experts recommend mixing alfalfa with grass hay, rather than relying exclusively on alfalfa hay. Studies show that feeding dairy cattle low-DCAD (dietary cation-anion difference) forage, such as Timothy Hay can be the best way to proactively prevent these conditions. Always select good quality, clean straw when buying it for feed. Reading Time: 6 minutes By Heather Smith Thomas â When selecting a family milk cow or choosing from the best dairy cow breeds to start a small dairy, there are a number of options.The most âidealâ breed will be one that best suits your own situation and purpose. To calculate reference cow, take the average peak milk of older cows and add the daily average of all cows and divide by 2. Thus legume hay, cut early, is more apt to meet the protein and mineral needs of young growing, pregnant or lactating animals than will many of the grass hays. What quality of hay have you harvested over the past three years? As a general rule of thumb, grass hay is best for horses—alfalfa or other legume hay can be an excellent feed to mix with grass hay for animals that need more protein. Also, alfalfa contains a highly digestible source of protein and neutral detergent fiber (NDF), which increases the amount of energy available to the cow when compared to grass forages. What about feeding Western alfalfa hay, which has an RFV over 200? Anytime feed intake is improved, performance is increased, especially with early lactation cows. 3 Total digestible nutrients.. Alfalfa is a forage crop that is not only high-yielding but (more importantly) is also an excellent source of energy, protein, fiber and minerals for dairy cattle. Good grass hay is the most ideal feed for mature horses; it is the most natural feed, and contains the proper calcium/phosphorus ratio (preferably 1:1 to 2:1). Next to pasture, good quality hay is the ideal feed. In comparison to hay, silage preserves more nutrients from the original pasture. Hay falls into several categories: grass, legume, mixed (grass and legume) and cereal grain straw (such as oat hay). Regardless of storage time, you will need a way to keep it from getting wet or drawing moisture from the ground. Please let us know a convenient time to call you on, (*All time slots are available in CDT zone.). Cows efficiently use the high levels of protein, calcium and high-quality fiber in alfalfa for producing milk. Regular manure management aids in parasite control and will also result in more uniform grazing. Create an open forum of discussion and an easy-to-read magazine of expert information about the U.S. dairy industry. The plants are vigorous and can be grown in a wide variety of soil types. Copyright © 2020 EG Media Investments LLC. Young calves have tender mouths and cannot chew coarse hay very well—whether grass or alfalfa. When hay costs rise, beef cattle can often get by eating a mix of straw and some type of protein. Progressive Cattle magazine captures the essence of the cattle producer and ranching experience. Soil Quality: Plants derive their nutrients from the soil they're grown in. Specifically, you need to evaluate: Economic budgets (on an annual basis) indicate it costs about $330 to raise an acre of alfalfa, assuming that the establishment costs are spread out over four years. Factors that can affect nutritional value include plant species in the hay, fertility of soil, harvesting methods (whether the hay was conditioned or crimped to dry faster and lose less leaves and nutrients during drying) and curing time. One way to assess the maturity of alfalfa hay is the snap test. 3) Pasture and Forage Just consider the Ovsynch program where cows are handled four times. If you must use alfalfa hay for all your horses, be selective in the hay you choose. If you don’t have any type of roof to put your hay under, you can create a well-drained area (by building up the floor with gravel or wooden pallets) and cover the stack with tarps. In addition, hay should contain no more than 14 percent moisture or less than 86 percent dry matter. If you do opt for chemical weed control, be sure the product you choose is safe for livestock and follow precisely the manufacturer’s use instructions. What does it cost you to raise an acre of alfalfa or alfalfa/grass forage? As illustrated in Table 3 , when bales are priced on size, the weight of the package greatly influences the price paid per ton. Look at texture, maturity, color and leafiness. Immature grass hay or leafy alfalfa is usually the best feed for sheep. Calcium requirements of lactating dairy cows are high relative to other species or to nonlactating cows because of the high calcium concentration in milk. Good palatable grass hay, cut while still green and growing, can be very adequate. Itâs a 50-50 cross of a small Irish Dexter beef cow and a Jersey milk cow. Chemical weed sprays can be extremely harmful to livestock—their use is not recommended by some vets. Alfalfa is also a good winter feed because heat is created by digestion of protein, so a horse can keep warmer on a cold night. If fed on wet or muddy ground, sheep will generally waste a lot of hay; they will eat more of it when it is kept clean and dry in a feeder, or some kind of feed bunk. There is more to feeding a dairy cow than just setting it loose in a field. Some of the more common grass hays include timothy, brome, orchard grass and bluegrass. Within a type of hay, the higher the RFV, the greater the quality of the forage. When balancing rations, the reference cow should be at the 75th percentile of the herd. Itâs quite possible a dairy breed you were looking into did not make â¦ Mature sheep can get by on good-quality grass hay, but lambs do better with a legume—harvested while still growing so that it has finer stems. Just like a confinement cow, higher dry matter intakes improve production. However, some types of mold may cause abortion in pregnant cows. A mix of grass and legume hay often works well. However, weeds tend to appear in first-cut alfalfa hay. If buying grass hay, maturity at harvest will also make a difference in its nutrient quality. Exporters of dairy replacement heifers and other livestock are coming to the... Progressive Dairy regularly delivers relevant industry news, cow health and dairy management info to you at no cost. per cow to as much as over 11000 lbs. Focus on Forage â Vol 3: No. Our experts will call you on your preferred time. Feeding high-quality forages results in greater feed intake and, as a result, dairy cows produce more milk, and they oftentimes can produce this milk more economically. Thank you for choosing this service. Heather Smith Thomas is based on her ranch in Salmon, Idaho, and has written many books on livestock. Lately there has been a lot of interest in grass-fed milk or milk that is produced by cows fed only grass on pasture or hay. Legume leaves, by contrast, do not have the same structural function and don’t change much as the plant grows, but the stems become coarser and more fibrous. In general, a miniature milk cow is a third to half the size of the standard milk cow. Remove and burn, or dispose of them in the trash—otherwise, you may see a return of these often persistent and pesky plants. Alfalfa hay with an RFV greater than 200 acts like concentrates in a milking cow diet, and these diets need to be balanced as such. But getting the best yield of good quality milk is a science that can leave your head spinning. Coarse, thick-stemmed hay (overly mature) has more fiber and less nutrition than immature, leafy hay with finer stems. Add to Favorites . Wet hay not only weighs more, adding to the cost, but will likely be moldy. From a practical and economical standpoint, minerals are relatively cheaply added to dairy cow diets as inorganic mineral sources so that the amount supplied through alfalfa does not greatly enhance performance or profitability. The digestibility, palatability and nutrient values are highest when the plant is young—with more leaves and less stems. Peter Roome/Flickr. High quality silage is an abundant source of energy, protein and fibre that aids rumen health. A lactating dairy cow will eat 100 pounds of food every day! This monthly publication is tailored for all segments of the beef industry and will consistently provide compelling features and photography, timely news, expert industry voices and entertaining commentary. Check for weeds, mold, dust, discoloration due to weathering, heat due to fermentation of wet hay (if the cut hay was rained on before being baled and stacked), and foreign material in the bales such as rocks, sticks, baling twines or wire. But for an animal that just needs forage to keep the rumen functioning and to provide some calories and nutrition, a grass forage may be the better choice. Forages are the foundation for building diets for the dairy herd. The crude protein content in the hybrid Napier grass is between 8 and 11 percent. Each issue of Progressive Forage contains articles which focus on a particular topic area within the forage industry. However, if grass hay is coarse and dry (with little vitamin A or protein), you’ll need to add some legume hay to the cattle’s diet. Assist dairy producers in improving their profitability and efficiency while enjoying the life experiences associated with producing milk. Of course, dairy cows require lots of energy to preserve body condition and maximise milk yields. Unless you are buying directly out of the field after baling, try to buy hay that has been protected from weather by a tarp or hay shed. At the New Generation Dairy, the dairy cattle are fed a combination of alfalfa haylage and a total mixed ration. These changes ultimately affect performance and profitability. High-producing dairy cows need alfalfa hay, which, after harvest, contains a relative feed value greater than 150. (Contact your local extension agent about testing. When changing an animal’s diet, do it gradually—especially when changing from a grass to a legume. Robotika/Flickr. Sheep, like goats, prefer fine, leafy hay and will not eat coarse hay. Straw (byproduct from harvest of oats, barley or wheat) provides energy, created by fermentation breakdown in the rumen. The results in Table 2 highlight the type of supplementation usually needed in a cow herd. The National Forage Testing Association (NFTA) certifies the accuracy of forage testing laboratories. On a tonnage basis, what has it cost you to raise alfalfa or alfalfa/grass forage for your milking cows? Because of this, they will also eat weedy hay that might not be suitable for horses. At the other extreme, overly stemmy alfalfa that is well past bloom stage may be too coarse for horses. Then the question becomes, can you purchase hay of the quality you need more cheaply than you can raise it? Mature beef cattle can get by on rather plain hay of any type but lactating cows will need adequate protein. This period of negative calcium balance does not appear to be deâ¦ 1 Mature cow in the middle 1/3 of pregnancy. Forage that tests lower can be fed to those cattle that require lower amounts of nutrients relative to the high-producing dairy cow. These numbers ultimately relate to the amount of energy available to support milk production, growth and reproduction. Leaf content of producing hay for all your horses, sheep and goats expert information about the U.S., is. Leaves that cattle waste hay needed by the milking herd run off readily to fiber content increases ( ADF... 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