May is the month which provides forage for Virginia cattle for much of the year.

Part of this abundant growth we use to feed the herd and a portion most cattlemen harvest as hay and feed at various times through the upcoming winter.

Economic records and budget analysis clearly show that maximizing the grazing portion and minimizing the hay portion are major contributors to increasing profitability in a cow-calf enterprise.

Equipment, fuel and fertilizer costs are the major cash cost contributors to hay production costs. This is not considering the labor involved in the harvest and feeding of the hay, or the loss associated with its storage and feeding.

There are important strategies cattlemen can utilize for both the grazing and preservation portions of their forage crop to increase the impact.

By all rights hay production is expensive, regardless of the quality of the hay.

One way to increase the return on your hay investment is to strive to produce high value hay, which means high quality hay.

Given the comparative value per pound of TDN and protein in corn and soybean meal, the difference in feeding value from poor to very good quality grass hay can be as high as $50-60 per ton.

Generally, there is some sacrifice in tonnage per acre to produce high quality hay, but most costs are not impacted by tons produced.

Beyond the feeding nutrient value of the hay, each ton of grass will also remove $60-70 per ton in nutrients in the form of N, P, and K. This cost in nutrients is there whether you fertilized or not.

Bottom line — hay is expensive.

Minimize how much you need; work to keep its nutrient content high and store it like it is a valuable commodity (it really is).