Be Wise When Buying Hay

Be Wise When Buying Hay

MU Extension specialist offers best tips on buying and testing hay for quality.

Dry weather in southwestern and other parts of Missouri continues to prompt interest in buying hay, reports Eldon Cole, University of Missouri Extension livestock specialist, Mount Vernon. When buying hay, Cole recommends buying by weight, not by the bale.

"At least check the weight on a few large bale packages. The 1,000-pound, big round bale of grass hay may only weigh 750 pounds. That difference in weight would change the per ton price on a $35 bale by about $23 per ton," Cole notes.

Do your homework before buying hay.

Do your homework first when shopping for hay. Ask hay dealers for references. At delivery time, don't unload the hay until you're satisfied it's what you agreed to purchase.  Check the hay for mold problems, weeds and other misrepresentation or mismanagement.  

Most importantly, Cole recommends testing the hay at a lab to be sure the energy and protein values are suitable for the class of livestock you'll feed. The test costs around $18. The lab can check hay for nitrate problems, which can occur and cause poor performance, even death," Cole says.

Cole also recommends buying hay that complements the hay you already have. "Usually this means buying higher quality hay that contains legumes since your hay supply may be mostly fescue. Besides feed for livestock, purchased hay adds fertility to the fields where you feed it," he adds.

Take extra care when transporting and handling plastic wrapped baleage because holes in the wrap can result in spoiled hay. Store and feed hay in ways that minimize shrink and waste. Barn storage saves a lot of hay and improves palatability.  If a barn's not an option, make sure the storage area is well-drained.

When buying hay, buy by weight not bale.

The Missouri Department of Agriculture has a hay hotline for buyers and sellers (1-800-877-4429). They release a hay market summary with prices for different types of hay each week.

"Buying hay now would be wise since the extensive dry area in the state will result in stronger hay prices as fall and winter arrive -- unless there is a drastic turnaround in moisture" Cole says.

Source: MU Extension Southwest News Service

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