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Sharing results from a two-year study, Western Beef Development Centre Research Scientist Bart Lardner compared three different winter feeding systems for pregnant cows.

“We wanted to evaluate traditional drylot pen feeding with bale processing and bale grazing,” noted Lardner.

Bale processing involves using equipment to break bales up into windrows for feeding, whereas bale grazing refers to leaving round bales out in the pasture in the fall and using portable electric fencing to manage grazing patterns.

Set-up

“Some of the measures we looked at in this study were the impact of grazing systems on cow condition and performance, the changes in soil nutrient profile for phosphorous and nitrogen and the forage response of the winter grazing sites the following year,” Lardner explained.

In the study, 96 spring-calving beef cows were distributed into each of the three systems, with 32 cows per system. In one system, cows were assigned to the drylot from November through March and fed a forage-based ration of mixed hay.

“Our bale processing system was managed allocating one hay bale and one straw bale to those cows every three days to control utilization or wastage of the feed, as well as trying to distribute those nutrients evenly across that winter feeding site and to eliminate the cost of spreading manure,” he added.

In the bale grazing system, bales were set out in the fall, and cows were moved to allow for access to one hay bale and one straw bale every three days.

“We also applied raw manure from the drylot pen using a tractor and manure spreader at 30 tons to the acre. We applied 10 tons to the acre of a compost material from a previous experiment. We left one area of that pasture untouched, using it as a control as well,” he continued.

The feeding systems were located in a pasture of Russian wild rye that had not been managed for nutrients for five years.

Results

“Looking at the effect of winter grazing systems on body weight change of the beef cows, there was no difference in body weight change in the first year,” Lardner noted.

In the second year, there were positive body weight changes across feeding systems, but no significant differences were recorded.

Looking at the soil nutrient profile, he comments, “We found there was no change in phosphorous levels in terms of pre- and post-grazing. The real interesting aspect here was the increase in soil inorganic nitrogen – both nitrate nitrogen and ammonium nitrogen.”

Soil samples revealed 2.5 to three times more soil inorganic nitrogen where cows had wintered and no increase where that manure was applied with equipment.

“Using a computer program, we looked at the concentration of nutrients in the bale graze and bale process trials as well. In the bale process, nitrogen was more evenly distributed across the winter grazing site because we were using the bale processing system to evenly distribute the feed, whereas most of that nitrogen concentration on the bale graze site was where the bales sat,” he explained.

Yields

Forage yields also increased where cows were fed by bale processing or bale grazing.

“There was a similar forage yield where the raw manure was applied with equipment. We see the benefit of where the nitrogen was left behind and where those cows were winter managed,” Lardner said.

In this study, both straw and hay bales were provided to the cows in an attempt to reduce feed costs. But, the researchers found that the cows consumed mostly hay and used straw for bedding.

“In our particular instance, the leftover straw or feed acted as litter, which is very good for conserving moisture and nutrients. We saw it capturing limited rainfall that happened the following summer, and we saw increased forage yield and pasture response because of that litter that was left out there,” he noted.

Summary

Summarizing results from the study, Lardner stated that winter grazing systems had no effect on cow condition or cow performance.

“However, looking at the soil nutrient profile, winter grazing increased soil nitrogen levels roughly two to three times greater on bale process or bale graze sites, compared to the control sites,” he remarked.

Pasture yield also increased 2.3 to 2.9 times in the feed sites relative to the control pasture.

“Finally, producers should choose their winter feeding sites adequately to not only increase nutrient efficiency but also to reduce environmental impact,” he concluded.

Natasha Wheeler is editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

As hay prices continue to come down from highs during years of extreme drought across the country, Wyoming hay and forage producers are seeking avenues to capture the best value for the high-quality product they provide. To meet that goal, producers and associated businesses have come together to form a new organization – the Wyoming Hay and Forage Association.

Scott Keith, Wyoming Business Council forage program manager, says, “The goal of the organization is very simple – to expand marketing opportunities for the hay and forage industry.”

Ron Richner, a Casper hay producer and member of the establishing committee for the organization says, “We hope to help everyone – from the small producer to the large producer – be able to market their hay and get exposure in markets they might not otherwise have.”

“We have a high quality product, and we want to market it,” he adds.

Mike Fabrizius, a producer from Riverton and Southwest Region director of the Association, says, “We’ve had a lot of interest from farmers and ranchers so far. I’m really excited about where this is going to take us.”

Organizers

A group of four producers from around the state has led the development of the Wyoming Hay and Forage Association.  The establishing committee included Richner, Jessica Sullivan of Riverton, Wayne Tatman of Lingle and Howard Gernant of Greybull. University of Wyoming Extension’s Caleb Carter will also be integral in the organization of the Association.

A Board of Directors, consisting of one producer from each of the four regions of the state and two at-large non-producer members, has also been formed.

“The committee of people who have been involved in this is pretty important,” Keith says. “We split up the state into four regions for our directors.”

The Southeast Region, represented by Kenny Degering of Lusk, covers Niobrara, Platte, Goshen, Laramie and Albany counties. Fabrizius represents the Southwest Region, which includes Fremont, Carbon, Sweetwater, Uinta, Lincoln, Teton and Sublette counties. From the Northwest Region, including Park, Big Horn, Hot Springs and Washakie counties, Gerry Danko of Powell serves as the producer director, and Brian Wing of Casper is the Northeast Region director. The Northeast Region covers Natrona, Johnson, Sheridan, Campbell, Crook and Weston counties.

“We also have two areas that we classify as at-large,” Keith explains. “They are the east and west halves of the state. These at-large directors aren’t producers. They are people who are involved in organizations or industries that are heavily dependent on the hay and forage industry.”

Terry Niswonger of Torrington and Greg Anderson of Riverton were selected for the at-large positions.

Keith adds, “These people were selected by the establishing committee, and they spent quite a bit of time looking at the regions and identifying people who would be willing and able to serve, as well as people who are strong representatives of the industry.”

The state is split into regions such that each region produces approximately the same tonnage of hay based on Wyoming agriculture statistics.

Online presence

The main element of the Association will be a website that provides the opportunity to list hay for sale. The site will also feature a list of hay producers and associated businesses that sponsor the organization.

“This website will be a place that members can put what kind of hay they have, how much hay they have and the quality, if they want, so people know it’s available for sale,” Fabrizius says. “We’re still working out the details about how it will work.”

Fabrizius adds that no prices will be listed on the site to encourage direct contact between producers and hay buyers.

The Wyoming Hay and Forage Association aims to create a directory for hay producers around the state.

Richner says, “We want to create an Association that people will be involved in with a platform that is user-friendly and promotes Wyoming hay.”

Other activities

The organization will also partner with the Wyoming Business Council to put on the Wyoming State Hay Show at the Wyoming State Fair and exhibit Wyoming hay at the World Dairy Expo, Forage Superbowl and other national trade shows.

The Association directory, as well as more information from producers, will be prominently displayed at these trade show venues, as well.

Education

  In addition to marketing activities, Fabrizius and Keith emphasize that education is another important piece the Association will follow up with.

“As time goes on, in each region, there will be different events, like field days and forage seminars, to provide education opportunities for producers on production practices, forage testing practices and other things,” Keith says.

Fabrizius adds, “Most of us have worked with a lot of guys from seed companies and other places, and they know their stuff. We’d like to try to bring some of them together for an educational program to talk to farmers.”

He notes that the meetings will likely be set in the winter months when producers aren’t trying to get work done in the fields.

Transportation

An additional component of the Association will be a transportation hub where producers can find trucking for their hay.

“We’ve had some trouble with guys who sell hay but then can’t find the trucks available to transport it because of interstate transport laws and other things,” Keith explains. “We want to try to connect producers to guys with trucks.”

Membership

Fabrizius notes that the Association is still working to establish its final bylaws, but they are beginning to see interest from producers around the state.

“I’ve had several people call and ask me about the Association,” he says, adding, “Everyone I’ve talked to is on board.”

Keith adds that soon, membership will be available for producers.

Fabrizius adds, “This will be an avenue for farmers who don’t know where to go or people who don’t know where to buy hay.”

Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

In February of 2016, the Wyoming Hay and Forage Association (WHFA) launched with the goals of promoting Wyoming’s high-quality hay and forage, establishing a networking opportunity for hay and forage producers in the state and creating opportunities for continued education about forage production.

In January 2019, with a membership of nearly 30 producers and growing, a new executive director, Toby Skinner, took over the leadership of the association, following Scott Keith, who left to pursue opportunities in another career. 

“I joined the Board of Directors for WHFA in 2018,” Skinner says, noting he took over for a friend who was looking to exit the board. “Then, Scott was promoted, and he asked me if I’d be interested in taking over his position. I started in January as executive director.” 

Background

Skinner was raised on a large ranch north of Fort Laramie. The family sold the ranch in 1999 and purchased a hay farm that they currently own today.

“I also worked for Brown Company and Frontier Equipment. Then, I partnered with Cheyenne Kubota and worked with him for a while,” Skinner explains. “When the opportunity to take over and be more involved in the family farm came up, I came back home.” 

Skinner’s management experience poises him well to move the organization forward and enhance the ability of WHFA to positively impact its membership and the hay and forage industry in Wyoming.

WHFA goals

As his first goals as director, Skinner says his primary task is to increase sponsorship and membership levels. 

“We want to bring more people in and get the word out that Wyoming has a hay and forage association,” he describes. 

“A lot of people don’t know what we do,” Skinner continues. “We want to explain this isn’t just a play to sell hay. It is a broader marketing and educational tool where we can increase everyone’s knowledge about production and expand our network.” 

Currently, WHFA’s website averages 2,500 view a week, but Skinner notes they have room to advance their social media presence. 

“I hope to leverage the Facebook page more to spread the word about WHFA and what we’re doing,” he comments.

WHFA will also host the Wyoming Hay Show, held during the Wyoming State Fair. 

Skinner says, “Overall, we’re working on brainstorming different ways to get our name out so people recognize WHFA.” 

Producer education

In addition to marketing, WHFA emphasizes producer education and has hosted workshops to provide information.

“Our workshops are free to members, but they cost for non-members to attend,” Skinner says. “This year, we hosted two winter meetings, one in Casper and one in Torrington.”

The Torrington event was held in conjunction with Brown Company’s Customer Appreciation Days, which Skinner says was effective in drawing a good crowd. 

“Most producers stayed until the end of the meeting, and it was a great opportunity for everyone,” he notes. “We had some weather impacts in Casper that made attendance a little lower, but we had almost 40 people attend both workshops.”

This year, producers were led through an explanation of enterprise budgeting and calculating break-even yields. 

“Our hope and our goal was to give producers the understanding and confidence to use this tool on their own operations to improve their profitability,” explains University of Wyoming Extension’s Caleb Carter, who led the workshop with colleague John Hewlett.

In the future, Skinner says he hopes to partner with sponsors across the state to host workshop in conjunction with customer appreciation events. He hopes to have another producer education event in the late fall after haying is complete for the season.

“We’re also hoping to move our workshops around to locations where they are most effective for producers across the state,” he explained.

Membership

Producers interested in becoming a member of WHFA should visit the association’s website to find a membership application.

Alternatively, Skinner says any member of the Board of Directors should be able to provide information on membership.

Membership dues can be paid via PayPal or check. 

Current leadership of WHFA includes President and Northeast Director Brian Wing, Vice President and Northwest Director Bill Cox, Treasurer and Southwest Director Jerry Weliever, Secretary and Eastern Industry Representative Scott Keith, Southeast Director Robert Cook, Western Industry Representative Mark Evans and Assistant Secretary Caleb Carter.

“This is a new association. We’re trying to grow our membership to promote Wyoming hay,” Skinner describes. “Wyoming hay is really high-quality, and we don’t have a lot of the pests that other states have. WHFA can help to promote hay and help producers get the most for their hay.”
Saige Albert is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup. Send comments on this article to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..