Owning livestock can be a challenge to even the most prepared landowner or pet lover. While many farm animals rely on hay as their main diet, feeding a hay that gives them the nutrition they need can be more difficult than you think. It is critical to have your hay tested and find out its exact nutritional value for your animals.
Interpreting the Hay Test Report
Look over the entire report. While there are many categories that contain important information, the most critical are: digestible energy, crude protein, acid detergent fiber and neutral detergent fiber. Mineral content is also important.
Find the crude protein marker. This will tell you how much protein is in your hay - which is vital to animal nutrition. A minimum of 9 percent protein should be available and a maximum of 30 percent protein in alfalfa or other legumes. Your stock will need varying amounts of protein, depending on the animal, its use and the demands made on it.
Locate the digestible energy marker on the report. This gives you the nutritional value of the feed, expressed in Mcal/kg. By feeding according to recommended guidelines, your animal will need a specific amount of the hay to maintain body condition. If your animal is idle without work, it will need less. If it is in heavy work or used for milking, it will need more.
Look for a low number on the acid detergent fiber. This number shows the amount of lignin which is in the hay, which is virtually indigestible. The lower the number, the more easily absorbed the hay nutrients are. So watch for a low number here. An acceptable range of acid detergent fiber is between 25 percent and 45 percent.
See if the neutral detergent fiber number is 30 to 50 percentage points higher than the acid Detergent fiber. If it is, the hay is a better quality and will provide the most nutritional punch per pound than if both sets of numbers are high.
Review the mineral content of the hay, particularly the lysine content. Many animal nutritionists support the following ratios: 1-to-3 for copper to zinc; calcium to phosphorus ratio between 1.2-to-1 to 2-to-1; calcium to magnesium ratio is recommended to be between 1.5-to-1 and 2-to-1. By making sure these minerals are in order and on the right guidelines, healthy young stock can be produced.
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