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Cooperative Extension: Livestock


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Related Resources - Do You Have Enough Forage This Year?

Frequently we experience very challenging years in terms of hay harvesting and corn silage production.  Not only are yields down but the quality of the forage are low for the most part.  Many years livestock producers will ask, “Will I have enough forage this year for my livestock?”

This page helps you find the answer to that question.

First you need to determine how much forage you will need this year.  This depends on the type of livestock you keep, number of head, age, weight, level of production, etc. Then you need to determine how much forage you have on hand.  You need to know the volume of your storage and the density of the forage.

These tables detail forage needs on a hay equivalent basis of 88-90% dry matter; conversion to 35% dry matter silage can be done by multiplying the table contents by 2.6 (90% dry matter hay/35% dry matter silage). Please note Table 1 details TONS of forage required per month and accounts for feeding losses in dry matter. Table 2 details POUNDS of hay per day / month / number of bales per month. An additional 5-15% loss in forage dry matter will occur during storage depending on forage management.

Determine How Much You Need

Table 1. Average Amount of Forage Needed Per Month for Dairy Cows
(Ave. 1,350 lbs.)
  Low Quality
0.47 – 0.54 Mcal/lb.
Medium Quality
0.55 – 0.59 Mcal/lb.
High Quality
Over 60 Mcal/lb.
  Forage Needed (Tons)
Lbs. 3.5 Fat Corrected Milk
19,000 0.38 0.42 0.44
15,000 0.41 0.44 0.46
11,000 0.44 0.46 0.48
Dry 0.39 0.39 0.39
Heifers
Birth – 6 months 0.08 0.09 0.1
6 – 14 months 0.19 0.21 0.22
14 – 24 months 0.29 0.31 0.33
Av./ Heifer / month 0.2 0.22 0.23
Source: 1992 Interactive Television Dairy Nutrition Course Notebook, UMCE.

 

Table 2. Approximate Amount of Hay Needed By Animal Unit for all Other Livestock
Animal Unit Pounds of Hay per Day Pounds of Hay per Month No. of 40 pound bales per month
1 20 600 15
2 40 1200 30
3 60 1800 45

 

Table 3. Animal Units
It is assumed that one mature cow represents an animal unit or 1,000 pounds. The comparative feed consumption of other age groups or species of animals determines the proportion of an animal unit that they represent.
Type of Livestock Animal Unit
Beef Cattle:
Cow, with or without unweaned calf at side 1.0
Heifer, 2 years old or older 1.0
Bull, 2 years old or older 1.3
Young Cattle, 1 to 2 years 0.8
Weaned calves to yearling 0.6
Horses:
Draft Horse 1.7
Light Horse, mature 1.3
Light Horse, yearling 1.0
Weanling colt or filly 0.75
Sheep:
5 Mature ewes, with or without lambs at side 1.0
5 Rams, 2 years old or older 1.3
5 Yearlings 0.8
5 Weaned lambs or yearlings 0.6
Source: Feeds and Nutrition, M.E. Ensminger, J.E. Oldfield, W.W. Heinemann, Ensminger Publishing Co., 1990.

Determine How Much You Have

Table 4. Hay Shed Capacity
With 20’ High Sidewalls
Width, Feet Baled Hay (Tons/Foot of Length)
24 2.0
30 2.6
36 3.1
40 3.4
48 4.0
Density Values
Cu. Ft./ Ton Lbs./ Cu. Ft.
Alfalfa 200 – 330 6 – 10
Non-legume 250 -  330 6 – 8
Straw 400 – 500 4 – 5
Source: Dairy Housing Handbook, MWPS – 7

 

Table 5. Bunker Silo Capacities
Average Width Average Depth of Silage in Bunker
8 ft. 12 ft. 16 ft. 20 ft.
Tons Dry Matter per One Foot of Length
12 ft 0.53 0.78 1.1 1.3
15 ft 0.66 1.0 1.3 1.7
20 ft 0.90 1.3 1.8 2.2
30 ft 1.3 2.0 2.6 3.3
40 ft 1.8 2.6 3.5 4.4
50 ft 2.2 3.3 4.4 5.5
Source: Managing Dairy Feed Inventory, University of Wisconsin, W. T. Howard, V. Wagner, and H. Larsen.

 

Table 6. Round Bale vs. Square Bale
 Size of Round Bale Equivalent Number of Square Bales
40 lb. Bale 50 lb. Bale 60 lb. Bale
4’ Diameter (600 lb.) 15 12 10
5’ Diameter (1,000 lb.) 25 20 16-2/3
6’ Diameter (1,400 lb.) 35 28 23 -1/3
Note: Losses due to weathering can vary from 11% to 44% for round bales left outside

 

Table 7. Approximate Dry Matter Capacities of Tower Silos (Tons)
Silo Height (ft)  Silo Diameter (ft)
12 16 20 24 28
24 15 27 43 61 83
32 23 41 65 93 127
40 32 57 89 127 173
48 42 74 115 166 226
56 93 144 207 282
64 174 250 340
72 293 400
80 334 455
*Capacities allow one foot unused depth for settling in silo up to 30 ft high, and one additional foot for each 10 ft beyond 30 ft height.
Source: ASAE (1985) as presented in, Silage and Hay Preservation, NRAES – 5.

Plan for this Year:

  • Consider a late harvest on some fields
  • Purchase forage from other farmers (purchase now, don’t wait until late spring)
  • Feed more grain and less hay
  • Cull low producing animals
  • Reduce herd size
  • Feed high fiber byproduct feeds to extend forage supplies

Plan for Next Year:

Fertility Management

  • Soil test hay fields now
  • Maintain soil pH at 6.0
  • Top dress with phosphorus and potash as required
  • Apply potash this fall to legume fields
  • Apply nitrogen in early spring to fields with over 75% grass
  • Apply nitrogen fertilizer to grass fields after first cutting, if cut before July 1st.

Harvest Management

  • Plan to start harvest the first week in June (have supplies and equipment ready June 1st)
  • Plan to harvest second cutting
  • Consider implementing an intensive grazing program and extend the grazing season into late fall and early spring to reduce stored forage needs.

Prepared by Donna R. Coffin, Extension Educator and Gary Anderson, Extension Specialist, University of Maine Cooperative Extension.

Reviewed by Rick Kersbergen, Extension Educator, Gary Anderson, Extension Specialist and David Marcinkowski, Extension Specialist.

Do you have enough forage this year (pdf)

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Contact Information

Cooperative Extension: Livestock
5741 Libby Hall
Orono, Maine 04469-5741
Phone: 207.581.3188, 800.287.0274 (in Maine) or 800.287.8957 (TDD)E-mail: extension@maine.edu
The University of Maine
Orono, Maine 04469
207.581.1110
A Member of the University of Maine System