Date of this Version
Hay from subirrigated meadows is the primary source of forage for wintering beef cattle in the Nebraska Sandhills. Hay quality is an important consideration if the nutritional needs of livestock are to be met. Since the overall quality of the hay is a product of the individual components, quantifying the quality parameters of each species can be helpful in making management decisions in relation to harvesting schedules and manipulation of species composition. In-vitro organic matter digestibility (IVOMD) and crude protein (CP) were analyzed for ten of the most important forage species to quantify seasonal trends in forage quality and provide relative comparisons among species. Samples were collected from three areas (replicates) on nine dates from June 11 through September 6 during the 1985 growing season. Orthogonal comparisons were made among species within the categories of cool-season grasses, warm-season grasses, and non-grass species to detect seasonal difference in IVOMD and CP. Polynomial regressions were plotted which most appropriately fit seasonal trends for each species. The most pronounced deviation from the normal pattern of declining IVOMD and CP values over the growing season were for Kentucky bluegrass, prairie cordgrass, and red clover within the groups of cool-season grasses, warm-season grasses, and non-grass, respectively. Differences in seasonal patterns of IVOMD and CP for the species in this study indicated that any changes in species composition brought about by management practice and manipulation would have a significant effect on overall nutritive value of the hay.