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From the Ground Up: The Importance of Protein Testing in Hay

Published: Jul. 16, 2020 at 8:00 AM CDT
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BRYAN, Texas (KBTX) - Many of us have pets and understand the importance of what we feed them and how much. Likewise, nutrition is an important part of any cow/calf operation. Ranchers provide forage for their cattle during the winter and also feed protein supplements to fill in any nutritional shortfalls left by the hay. The only way to know that is to know the quality of the hay that you’re feeding. Mike Kristynik is a Brazos County hay producer.

“Well, you go back to our friends in the dairy business. They can feed a lesser quality forage one day and it impacts their milk production the next. And if you’re looking to maximize the milk production in your mama cows to try to get those calves to grow as much as possible you need to have a good nutrition program.”

Kristynik says that there really isn’t any such thing as cheap hay.

“And so, people who like to buy cheap hay, they really need to put a pencil to it and find out what their true cost is by the time they add supplements to it. You could literally, you can starve a cow to death on poor hay. They can’t eat enough of it and they’ll lose weight. That’s been proven.”

Kristynik tests every hay cutting that he makes.

“I like to be able to tell them about the quality of the hay not only from a marketing perspective to keep them coming back, but also to help them plan their nutritional program. If they know upfront what their hay value is when it comes time to book their cubes in the fall or whatever then they can plan if they need the high protein cubes or if they can get by with a lower protein breeder cube, or maybe not even, depending upon what they’re feeding they may not have to feed any supplement at all. So, it’s a value not only to me but certainly to the person who is feeding the hay.”

Kristynik advises that if the producer you’re buying hay from doesn’t tell you it’s protein content, ask, and if they don’t know, have it tested yourself.

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