Beef cattle producers in the upper Southeast need to improve forage quality, let the cattle harvest it and feed less hay, according to Clemson University forage researchers, speaking at the Fall Field Day at Clemson University’s Edisto Research and Education Center.

Studies across the Southeast indicate the average cattleman feeds hay around 130 days out of the year, according to John Andrae, Clemson University forage specialist.

“Most producers can easily cut this to 60 days and excellent managers can possibly feed as few as 30-35 days,” he said.

The key is proper management — which includes growing cool and warm-season perennials wherever possible, over-seeding bermudagrass with winter annual grasses and legumes to extend grazing and planting alternative forages such as chicory to fill in those windows in spring and fall between growing seasons for the primary forage crops.

Andrae says producers can improve quality of hay by properly storing it. “We lose 25-30 percent of hay stored on the ground,” he said.

Net wraps offer better protection to hay bales than twine wraps and barn storage is the best for preserving quality. “Never store hay under trees,” he said. “Leave it out in full sun where it can dry out quicker,” Andrae says.