Allocating forages by cattle class

Any forage production system will produce a variety of hay quality in any one given year due to variability in weather conditions, labor availability and equipment limitations. Whether you're buying or selling hay, it is important to know what you have and how to use it. For the end-user, allocating forage by cattle class is imperative for maximizing efficient use. Relative feed value provides an indication of the digestibility and how much an animal can eat of a forage. It's an easy method of ranking a forage and more accurate than using protein content alone as a quality indicator.

Use the following figure as a quick guide to forage allocation by cattle class. Dairy producers will refine this system further to accommodate their herd needs, which vary significantly as noted in the figure.

The key to any successful forage feeding program is to properly allocate your forage. Compare your forage inventory to projected needs and adjust forage harvesting and purchasing plans accordingly. Make an inventory and allocation worksheet (similar to the following pages) part of your forage record keeping for an organized, well thought-out forage feeding system. For top managers this means producing high yields, capturing the best quality when harvesting, buying forages at the best possible value and utilizing feeds in a manner to generate more farm profit.