A Taste of Life at Windrush Alpacas

December 13, 2007

$17 Well Spent

Filed under: alpaca, Alpaca Care, Alpaca Health, Alpaca Nutrition, camelids, General — Tags: , , , — alpacalady @ 7:33 am

We recently picked up some more bales of hay from one of our local hay suppliers.  Usually we like to pick up a year’s supply of hay at one time and we always have the hay analyzed before purchasing it to make sure it has the right nutritional content.

This year has not been the best for hay and when we made our purchases we bought less than usual in the hopes that we might find some better hay as time went on.  Unfortunately we have not been able to find any better hay and having worked out a feeding program using the two different hays that we have purchased we had no choice but to stick with those hays.

The hay we picked up the other day was, according to the farmer who grew it, from the same crop and same field as our previous purchase.  Looking at it the hay appeared greener and fresher than the previous bales we had bought and when we put a bale out for the boys they dug into it with relish.  This hay was supposed to have only been about 10% protein, lower than we usually feed but at that protein level we could combine it with the other hay we are feeding it made a good “noshing hay”.

When the boys were so keen to eat the new bale of hay it made us wonder if perhaps the nutritional content of the new bales was different and so we took a sample and sent it off to our local forage lab for analysis.  It is impossible to tell the nutritional value of a bale of hay just by looking at it, but we suspected that the hay was going to have a higher protein level than the first load we had purchased.

Imagine our surprise when we got the analysis back and it showed that the hay had not a higher protein content but in fact a much lower protein content.  The hay tested out to be only 6.05% protein, far too low a protein level to be good hay for any livestock.  Even more surprising was that the TDN (Total Digestible Nutrient) was only 35.50% and the RFV (Relative Feed Value) 46.49.  There is very little nutrient value in that hay at all.

Usually with figures like that the hay would be pretty unpalatable to the alpacas so we are curious as to why the boys seem to like that hay so much.  Needless to say we have increased the amount of the other hay that we feed them until we can find a better hay source than one that is only 6% protein.

We may well re-test the hay in case there was an error during testing, but most likely the first test is accurate. 

Many livestock growers do not have their hay analyzed and I have lost count of the number of hay growers that I have spoken to who tell me that they have not had their hay analyzed but that it is really good hay.  How can they possibly tell just by looking at it?

Our hay analysis cost us $17 a fraction of the value of one of our alpacas.  Had we not had that hay analysis done we could have blindly fed that hay to our herd thinking that as they were loving it that it was good hay.  Over time we would have developed a whole slew of health problems in our herd as that hay has very little nutritional value to it.  Our $17 was $17 well spent and probably saved us hundreds of dollars in vets’ bills further down the road.


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