Don’t let cows go hungry

Published 11:57 pm Saturday, October 6, 2007

Two weeks ago I mentioned hay quality and benefits to a complete forage program for horses and cattle but did not mention winter feeding amounts. This question has numerous factors involved, but I will attempt to address some basic needs per cow. Along with forage needs is the concern for fall armyworms. Several calls from Adams County have already come in about controlling this pest.

Q. How much hay should I store to feed a cow during winter?

There are numerous factors that affect hay demands; number of cattle, weight of cattle, lactating vs. non-lactating, feeding methods, storage of hay and size of bales to name a few. Hay bales range from approximately 500 pounds for a 4-foot-by-4-foot round bale to up to 1,900 pounds for a well wrapped 6-foot-by-5-foot round bale, we will say 850 pounds is the average bale. Research shows that by leaving hay outside exposed to the elements you lose 28 percent of the hay to storage loss, when you feed hay outside you will lose another 5 percent minimum to feeding loss if you use hay rings, much more if it is directly on dirt.

Email newsletter signup

So if you store and feed your hay outside on the ground then you are only benefiting from about 70 percent of the total bale to start with. Cattle need 2.5 percent of their body weight in dry matter each day; hay is about 90 percent dry matter. Nonetheless, you need at least 30 pounds of hay a day to maintain a 1,200-pound lactating cow.

Therefore, if you plan on feeding hay for four months (120 days) then you should plan for a minimum of four bales per cow. Keep in mind this reduces if you have winter forages available, keep your hay covered, and depending on the age and size of your cows. Also this is dependent on the size of the bales you are feeding, if you have 6-footby-5-foot bales you need much less. Also keep in mind this is uncovered hay, these numbers decrease significantly for hay that is stored in a barn or under a tarp.

For horses without winter forages you should plan for about 10 square bales per horse per month along with supplemental feed.

Q. How do I control armyworms?

This time of the year can be frustrated for homeowner, hunters, ranchers and farmers with the damage caused by this pest. Fall armyworms can eliminate an entire food plot, yard, pasture or any other young lush forage area in less than a week.

Check newly planted areas where a combination of small grain and ryegrass is planted, without close inspection, armyworms can build under the fast-growing small grain and destroy the young lush grass before injury is evident. These worms feed on grasses continuously night and day and move like armies. Scout your fields once a week. If you find five to seven small worms per square foot, control measures should be implemented. There are some good options for eliminating this insect. A control example is an applications of Sevin 50 WP. Refer to individual product labels for restrictions. Broadcast 10 to 15 gallons of total ground spray per acre. Complete coverage is necessary since most products are contact insecticides. Be sure to read the labels for usages and precautions.

Next week I will move back to the flower garden and discuss some good plants to use in the garden to keep color in the landscape throughout the winter. If you have any further questions please contact me at or 601-445-8201.

David Carter writes a weekly column for The Democrat. He can be reached at 601-445-8201 or