Paskewitz, M.A.1
1CEA - Agriculture, University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service, Melbourne, AR, 72556


Nearly all livestock operations in Arkansas feed hay for some period during the winter months. Beef cattle producers report that winter feeding is the largest expense incurred. Izard County consists of mostly small to medium sized cattle operations. Off-farm employment, land availability and machinery costs have more small operators purchasing their hay rather than producing it. Locally, purchased hay costs are approximately $25-$45/bale. By feeding in small concentrated areas, producers fail to utilize the nutrient value within each bale of forage. Nutrient concentration poses a concern to water sources.  A demonstration was conducted to measure the benefit of strategically feeding hay to improve soil fertility and limit nutrient runoff. Six one-acre areas were mapped, gridded and soil sampled in October of year one. Hay samples were analyzed. Hay was unrolled as uniformly as possible across the 20 acre field. Manure was harrowed to more evenly distribute the nutrients. Soil samples were retaken 6 months post hay feeding in October of year two. Phosphorous levels increased by an average of 17 lbs. /acre. Potassium levels increased an average of 90 lbs. /acre. Organic matter increased from an average of 1.96% to 2.40%. The P and K value alone is $36.40/acre and $728.00 total. A nutrient credit offsets hay expense by $18/ton or $5.88/bale (4’x5’). By better managing their hay feeding, producers are fully capitalizing on an existing input that offsets hay expenses by decreasing fertility needs, increases forage production and reduces nutrient waste.   

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