Angus cattle feeding lineBad hay bales aren’t just a sign of a tough year. They’re also a clue that a herd’s nutrition is off. Hay stocks in the U.S. dropped to their lowest number last year since the 1950s, making even “bad” quality hay a high-dollar item.

University of Missouri Extension livestock specialist Andy McCorkill says managing the feed side of the business appropriately is critical when feed costs account for 60% of a beef cow enterprise.

McCorkill suggests these five tips for producers looking to make their hay go farther:

1. Test and weigh hay before buying.
2. Know how old the hay is.
3. Purchase by the ton, not the bale.
4. Match stock rates with hay supplies.
5. Know your herd’s nutritional needs.

Read more on low-quality hay and nutrition here.