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The Winds of Change, Do They Still Blow?

11 March 2013

US - Sam Smith from Ohio State University Extension writes- In 2008, we suggested that when it comes to forage production, handling, and utilization, perhaps The Winds of Change had come full circle.

We offered this thought, "As we examine the reality that all feed resources have become much more valuable and will likely remain so, the traditional methods . . . of handling, storing and feeding hay may be obsolete."

In fact, at the time we wondered if The Winds of Change had brought us full circle to a place where all hay would once again be stored under cover, and perhaps even be fed in something other than a steel ring resting out in the middle of a pasture field.

Based on a quick peek at the responses we received from those who attended last week's session of the 2013 Ohio Beef Cattle School entitled Squeezing Every Dollar out of Forage Production, we're not there yet. In fact, if the 200+ who attended are representative of Ohio's forage producers, nearly 40 per cent of our hay is still housed outside, and likely experiencing 20+ per cent storage losses due to weather damage.

In a State like Ohio that typically harvests 2.5 million tons of hay annually, that equates to more than a half million tons in forage storage losses! During the program, we also heard that it still costs more than $100 per ton to make hay regardless the quality. And don't forget, that was BEFORE we consider the value of the land we are growing it on!

Chris Penrose opened the program with a 35 minute presentation on the basics of managing beef cattle feed costs including management intensive grazing, pasture improvement and extended grazing alternatives.

Rory Lewandowski followed with a 50 minute presentation that essentially asked the question, "Can we (or should we) quit making hay?" Many were surprised as Rory explained that when looking at conservative figures, we typically experience a 20 per cent loss from the time of cutting a forage to the time it's fed.

That is, if the harvested dry forage is stored inside. That forage loss number can quickly grow to 50 per cent or perhaps more when stored outside! And don't forget, that's before actual feeding losses are added in.

If you want more detail on growing, managing, and grazing forages, there are several Grazing Schools scheduled for yet this spring throughout Ohio. Find a complete listing and registration details in the OSU Beef Team web Calendar:

Yet, the question remains, "Can we (or should we) quit making hay?" The answer for each of us likely lies somewhere in between the discussion at last week's Squeezing Every Dollar out of Forage Production and one of the upcoming Grazing Schools.

TheCattleSite News Desk

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