Managing Cow/Calf Hay Costs

One widely adopted hay making technology is the round bale. In 1892 the first stationary round baler was built and Allis Chalmers building the first moving round baler with a pickup in 1947. Two other types of baler followed in 1970 and 1972. The first was a ground rolled bale but the 1972 baler built by Vermeer had a bale chamber and a pickup in front. Many companies followed so that 15 or so were selling round balers by 1975. Round bales are convenient for hay making, feeding, transport and storage. But there are some limitations farmers and ranchers must be aware of. Round bales stored and fed outside can have as much as 50% loss. But if stored and fed inside that loss can be as low as 5-15%. Let’s take a look at the worst case example to illustrate just how costly high hay losses can be.

 

The University of Nebraska-Lincoln Beef website, beef.unl.edu, includes some representative budgets which include feed use with losses estimated at 15%. So actual intake of the amounts listed will be 85% of the hay amount listed. I will use the 2015 Central Nebraska budget as my example. With feed losses for hay set at 50%, ranchers would need. 0.31 tons more hay for cows and 0.47 tons more hay for 2 year olds. At $80 per ton for meadow hay, the additional hay needed with 50% loss adds $26.40 to feed cows and $37.40 to feed 2 year olds. A typical 300 cow herd, 84% mature cows and 16% 2-year olds, would spend $6652 for mature cows and $1795 more for 2-year olds, total $8847 more in hay due to high hay losses.

 

The next question then becomes where on this typical ranch the losses are occurring. Recommendations for storage loss reduction are in a Beef website article: http://beef.unl.edu/minimizing-storage-and-feeding-losses-round-bale-hay which shows where the losses occur and how to reduce them in storage. Another publication for the University of Missouri discusses ways to reduce feeding losses: http://extension.missouri.edu/p/G4570. These are good resources to utilize when looking for the hay losses on a ranch but when implementing those strategies calculate the cost of implementation. If the implementation costs are more than reduced feed costs, implementing those strategies would make the ranch worse off financially.

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