UGA Forage Extension Team

Strategies for Poor Forage Quality Management in Georgia Cow Herds

How is the recent weather affecting the Georgia hay crop? 

Similar to weather conditions in 2013, excess rain from May to July of 2018, followed by an August drought, have led to tremendous variation in the 2018 hay crop. Beef cattle producers in the Southeastern U.S. need to be on the lookout for cows experiencing diarrhea, fatigue, calving difficulties, weight loss, or even dying. In past years with similar weather, producers have also reported an increase in the number of cows aborting or giving birth to weak or stillborn calves.

What is causing forage quality issues? 

Although the exact causes may vary, the most likely culprit may be poor nutrition, primarily resulting from feeding low-quality hay, generally overmature hay caused by the unusually wet summer. Forage samples taken from the first and fourth hay cuttings in 2018 at the University of Georgia Tifton campus black shank grazing unit have resulted in relative forage qualities (RFQ) ranging from 114.3 to 88.8 in Tifton 85 Bermudagrass and 94.9 to 78.3 in Russell Bermudagrass. This is extremely troubling. In this case, the low-quality Russell variety averaged 8.9% crude protein and 49.5% total digestible nutrients (TDN). While this forage may be adequate to meet the basic needs of a dry cow in mid-gestation, it isn’t sufficient to meet the nutritional requirements of cows in late gestation or during lactation. Nor is this forage adequate to meet needs of growing calves or breeding heifers……

For more information on what cattlemen should do to address this issue, CLICK HERE.