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Using hay for supplementary feeding for sheep

Any type of pasture can be made into hay, but the quality of hay is determined by the quality of plants used. Good quality hay cannot be produced from poor quality pasture.

Improving the quality of pasture hay

The quality of pasture hay can be improved by fortifying bales with nitrogen, minerals and other ingredients to improve intake and digestibility. Freshly made bales should not be treated until at least 3-4 weeks after baling to give them time to settle.

A common treatment solution for 1t of hay is 16kg urea, 4kg sulphate of ammonia and 70L of molasses dissolved in 50L of water and impregnated into bales (weighing 0.5-0.75t) with a spear.

Nutritional value of hay

The table below lists the nutritional value of some common forms of hay.

Hay Digestibility % Crude
protein %
Metabolisable
energy
MJ/kg
Lucerne 45-55 12-25 8-9
Sorghum 45-55 7-10 7.5
Grass from 40-60%   
- young leafy   15 9
- early bloom   9 7.5
- mature   6 7
- hayed off   3 5

Management practices to reduce waste of hay

Buying or producing hay can be expensive; however, the following management practices can help reduce waste, which is important during a drought.

  • Feed sufficient hay every third day - hay should not be fed daily as it encourages stock to remain at the feeding site, and reduces the time spent grazing. It can also ensure all sheep are fed sufficiently (rather than more aggressive sheep eating most of the hay, there will be enough for the timid sheep as well).
  • Limit stock access to hay to minimise wastage by either using a feeder or temporary fencing. Feed hay in well-drained areas to minimise soil and pasture damage and prevent water damage to the hay.
  • Move the feeding site around the paddock to encourage stock to graze the whole paddock and to minimise the damage to any one area of the pasture.
  • Don't feed spoiled, rotted or mouldy hay, as it will often be refused by all but the hungriest of stock and will result in more waste during feeding.

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