SOUTHWEST, N.Y. — Cornell Cooperative Extension’s Southwest New York Dairy, Livestock, and Field Crops Program (SWNYDLFC) reminds farmers to check forage inventories regularly. This ensures there is enough feed available until pastures regrow and provide a plentiful source of feed.
For farmers with cattle, sheep, and goats, the growing season is typically spent grazing their animals and growing fields of grasses (like oats, timothy, or orchard grass) and legumes (like clovers and trefoil) to store for the upcoming winter. Sometimes, farms are not able to put up as much hay and baleage (fermented wet hay) as they would like to. The wet spring and dry summer of 2020 created a poor growing season that led to reduced hay production. Pastures also suffered, and some farms had to supplement livestock with feed during the grazing season that was set aside for winter. In years where stored forage may be lower than usual, it is especially important to check forage inventories thoroughly. If there is not enough stored feed available to make it through the winter and early spring, the information from a forage inventory will help farms make decisions about whether they will need to buy in forage or sell some of their stock to make sure there is enough feed to go around.
To calculate a farm’s forage inventory, start with counting the number of animals on the farm as well as identifying their age and stage of production. Different animal groups (adult males vs pregnant females vs young animals) will consume different amounts of feed. Then, take the weights of 6 bales of each bale type (small square, large square, round, and baleage) and count the number of bales available. Next, estimate the amount of hay wasted from each bale during storage and feeding. This will be used to estimate the true amount of forage being consumed by the herd or flock. Having an idea of the number of days that forage will need to be fed will help get a good estimate of feed needs for the remainder of the winter. From these numbers, an estimate of the amount of feed that will be consumed can be compared to the forage currently available.
Because feed consumption will vary based on the weather and what stage of production the animals are in, farms should calculate their inventories at least twice during the time when stored feed is being provided to shore up estimates. Ideally, feed stocks should be checked at the end of the grazing season, in the middle of winter, and in early spring.
For more information on or help with determining forage inventories, contact Livestock and Beginning Farm Specialist, Amy Barkley, at email@example.com or (716) 640 – 0844.
SWNYDLFC is a partnership between Cornell University and the CCE Associations of Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Erie, and Steuben counties. Their team includes Katelyn Walley-Stoll, Farm Business Management (716-640-0522); Joshua Putman, Field Crops (716-490-5572); Alycia Drwencke, Dairy Management (517-416-0386) and Amy Barkley, Livestock Management (716-640-0844). CCE is an employer and educator recognized for valuing AA/EEO, Protected Veterans, and Individuals with Disabilities and provides equal program and employment opportunities.
–SWNY Dairy, Livestock & Field Crops
Cornell Cooperative Extension
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