Cows waste more hay than farmers guess. Justin Sexten, beef nutritionist, learned that by asking visitors at a University of Missouri field day.
Farmers on tour wagons guessed 10% loss—at most.
MU researchers found 20% loss of fescue hay fed in common ring feeders used on most farms.
Sexten will share hay feeding tips at a field day, Sept. 25, at the MU Forage Systems Research Center, Linneus, Mo.
Last winter researchers compared three types of bale feeders on the beef farm at the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, Columbia.
Different types of bale feeders
They used open ring feeder, sheeted feeder and cone feeder. Sheeted feeders cover the bottom of the ring with sheet metal. The cone feeder suspends a bale in the center of the ring.
Waste costs farmers money. For Missouri, wasted baled hay can total $64 million a year. The U.S. loss adds up to more than $1 billion. That was for 2012, as loss depends on hay value. "That shows that when hay supplies are short, waste becomes more expensive," Sexten said.
"When cows waste hay, farmers learn the expense when they must buy feed to replace the loss," he said. That happened when farmers ran out of hay after the drought of 2012.
Sexten told farmers he thinks the 20%loss was too low. The study at the MU farm was under ideal conditions. The fescue bales had been stored in a nearby shed. "There was no rot on the bottom and top of the bales. Rot would be sorted off by the cows.