Wednesday, November 20, 2013

What about hay?


What About Hay?

By Dr. Rick Machen 
Associate Professor & Extension Livestock Specialist,
Texas Agricultural Extension Service, Uvalde 

Ruminants (goats, cattle, sheep, deer, antelope, elk, bison, etc.) are, by design, grazing animals. Their rumen, the largest gastrointestinal compartment, is an environment wherein bacteria anaerobically ferment (digest) forages. This unique digestive process converts solar energy captured by plants into higher quality, more nutrient dense foods like milk and meat.

Compared to harvest by a grazing animal, hay production is an expensive process, involving fossil fuel, machinery and man-hours. Haying also involves significant soil nutrient relocation when compared to grazing. Protein (nitrogen) and minerals harvested and hauled off the soil of a hay meadow or field must be replaced if optimal hay production is to be maintained. Grazing, on the other hand, is part of a natural cycle. A portion of the nitrogen and minerals from the consumed forage is returned to the soil with urine and feces.

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