Many folks like to drive the pasture and admire the beautiful animals they have helped raise or bring into the world. While it’s critical to manage the health of these creatures, it’s equally important to ensure they have a long term stand of healthy food. For pastured animals, they need a healthy salad available all day long. Grass is of its best nutritional value after green up and before seeding. At the onset of green up, many grasses lack enough magnesium which leads to complications in cattle. Once the grass forms a seed head, the nutritional value is close to that of hay (if not worse depending on what stage the hay was cut). Your goal should be to “avoid the seed.”
If animals are rotationally grazed and moved from paddock to paddock with intense management, you can ideally avoid hay in most any season. Let’s say cattle need about 26 pounds a day in dry hay forage, so a 1000 pound bale gives you almost 40 days feed. Over five months, a 30 cow herd would consume 117 bales at this rate. Since hay is normally not a complete feed from a protein, vitamin, and mineral standpoint, supplementation is required which adds additional costs. Next time you drive around the pasture, be on the lookout for those seed heads especially in high moisture areas of the property where growth is heaviest.