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Increased forage utilization starts before we feed hay

It’s often mentioned that a key benefit or the #1 job description of CRYSTALYX® is to improve forage utilization, especially of low quality forage (low protein and high fiber content).  This is true and its one of the reasons cattle and CRYSTALYX® work so well together.  Cows can digest forage and CRYSTALYX® can help them do it much more efficiently; up to 20% better in some of our past studies.

Here it is, the latter half of May 2014, so we are probably not thinking about utilizing poor quality roughage right now.  It’s spring turnout time and green grass is the rule right now.  It has been a cold-backward spring with the growth of our pastures and hay crops being behind in many areas.  This sort of reminds me of the discussions we had a year ago when forage inventories were at critical low points due to the 2012 drought and overall fewer acres of forage production.

Stretching forage before it’s fed

Haying season may be later this year, but it will still happen.  Perhaps now more than ever we need to implement strategies to maximize hay production or minimize the losses during production.  One way that could help would be to minimize hay shrink and improve the overall quality of the hay we produce.  Historically, Beef producers that make hay have probably overlooked the improvements that could be made simply by using a preservative in our haying systems.  I’m glad to say that just in the past couple years I have seen more interest from the cow-calf side, particularly those who harvest their own hay, in using hay preservatives.   The investment in such a practice is minimal (around $5 a treated ton) and the payoff is huge.  Hay shrink from in-field harvest and storage can be large – 15% or worse.  Using preservatives can help minimize shrink by 5-10% which is a $5-$10 saving if hay is valued at $100 a ton.   Hay preservatives also improve forage quality, which eventually translates to better feed utilization and animal performance.   As the hay price goes higher, the payoff only gets better.

Yeast →Heat→ Molds→ Mycotoxins  =  Hay Shrink and Lower Quality

Hay waste at feeding is a form of shrink, but that’s a separate discussion. Hay shrink prior to feeding simply is dry matter loss and the whole process has a “snowball effect”.  When hay is baled or stacked at elevated moisture levels or in humid environments without the use of a preservative, the natural yeast found on the plant begins to grow and multiply and burn the hay’s sugar (which is dry matter being burned = dry matter loss) creating heat.  This heat causes nutrient damage (mainly to protein) and lowers overall feed quality.   This yeast growth also provides a favorable environment for mold growth.  Mold will affect hay palatability; thus increasing feed refusal leading to increased hay waste and yes, even more shrink.   Hay molds can also produce various Mycotoxins that at high enough levels will impair reproductive efficiency and immunity.

Mold , yeast and mycotoxin issues can be subtle and often times may be to blame for issues we chalk up to “well my vaccine program or my supplement program just didn’t work.”  Chances are it was some forage fed with a little extra mold that didn’t look all that bad.

It pays to get your hays tested, not only for nutrients but if you suspect any damage due to hay being put up too green or too wet (even rained on hay  that eventually got put up is most likely damaged) it would be a good idea to test.  Yeast counts above 10,000 CFU in hay can lead to problems.

What’s the cost?  $5 per ton is an inexpensive investment.  If you are comparing two hay sources to purchase and one source had higher protein content and higher relative feed value, $5 would look like a pretty good investment.    So why not produce better hay in the first place?  Afterall, we normally feed what we got, so let’s make what we got the best it can be. 


I mention above the value in using hay preservatives.  There are various products on the market and one that we like to promote is BulletProof®.  BulletProof® is not an inoculant or a corrosive acid.  BulletProof® goes to work as soon as it’s applied at baling, working in a gas phase scavenging oxygen in the bale.  The benefit is simple – remove the Oxygen which reduces yeast growth, which reduces heating making for better quality forage retaining a higher percentage of tons harvested.   It’s a win-win situation and is an excellent way to stretch the forage before it’s fed.

And, don’t forget the value of CRYSTALYX®; it will help with any and all forages. If you are challenged with weather damaged hay, the increased fortification of trace minerals and vitamins found in CRYSTALYX® is yet another way to combat the “nutritional stress” associated with poor forages. 

Here’s to a great growing season in 2014!  For more info:  www.bulletproofyourforage.com and www.crystalyx.com