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Dealing with rain damaged hay

This summer has been an odd one for many regions; unusually cool in the upper Midwest, unusually wet across the Southeast. Not that anyone I know will complain about the rain, but it does throw a wrench in the hay making works.

Cut hay and rain seem to go hand in hand, but what’s really happening to the forage itself? We won’t cover all the science, but basically the plant is losing water (drying/curing) which is what we want. The down side is that the plant is losing sugar (energy) and some mineral content while it dries. The timing of the rain can negatively impact nutrient losses. IF cut forage is rained on soon after cutting, additional losses will be minimal, as the forage hasn’t had a chance to dry very much. The closer to baling the rain event is, the higher the nutrient losses due to leaching. This is due to the dry forage being rehydrated and the drying process has to start again. A hard, driving rain on dry forage can cause leaf shatter, leading to dry matter losses on top of the nutrient losses. Another problem with rain damaged hay is increased mold and mycotoxin risk, resulting in poor animal consumption.

When you add it all up, as great as rain is, it is hard on hay quality. What is a producer to do when Mother Nature has your baling schedule mucked up? Three possibilities come to mind: Test, Sort, and CRYSTALYX®.

Testing hay is the only way to know quality; protein, ADF, NDF and mycotoxins. Your county extension service, feed dealer or nutritionist can assist with proper sampling techniques as well as where to send your samples.

Sort your hay based on quality results, or how many times it was rained on. If you had to bale when the forage was wetter than normal, store it away from buildings and other hay cuttings. Higher moisture leads to increased heating and the potential for fire. Additionally, heat damage can permanently bind proteins to the fiber fraction, making it unavailable to the animal. Don’t feed suspect hay to younger cattle, as they are less tolerant of molds and mycotoxins.

CRYSTALYX® has a number of self-fed protein supplements that compliment hay of any quality. The addition of a readily available protein source help the rumen microbes do their job better. The addition of trace minerals and vitamins also help with proper rumen function as well as proper immune function, growth and reproductive performance in your cattle herd.

Don’t let a little rain get you down. Proper planning and supplementing can make the most of the forage you have on hand. To learn more about CRYSTALYX® Brand Supplements, contact your local dealer or visit our website, www.crystalyx.com.