This year has been a challenging year to make hay. About 5 years ago, we had a similar challenging year (even worse that year) and we ended up having a lot of cattle starving to death with a belly full of hay that was too fibrous to digest. So, PLEASE, encourage your producers to sample their hay and baleage to assess the nutritive value of it.
Earlier this afternoon, I asked Dr. Saha at the Feed and Environmental Water Lab to summarize the samples received from this growing season so far (April 1-current). He responded quickly and provided the attached summary.
If you compare the values to the means shown in the long-term summary found in Figure 11 of the “Understanding and Improving Forage Quality” Extension Bulletin, you will see that the average values from 2018 compare favorably to these long-term data. BUT (and I strongly emphasize this BUT), there is tremendous variability this year. He kindly provided the ranges in values for these forage categories, as well as the standard deviation. These summary statistics alert us to the real risks out there: There are many samples that are extremely low quality. For reference, wheat straw generally has a TDN value of ~45% or less. Note the range in the quality on some of these samples.
The final column in the attached is one that I calculated which is the coefficient of variation (standard deviation as a percent of the mean). Normally, we see a CV of ~10%. This year, the we have a LOOOOTTTTT more variability. Some categories are showing as much as 38% CV!
So, please, please, please!!! Encourage your producers to test their hay. Hay testing is almost always economical, but it may just help the producer prevent the death of some of their livestock.