After a season crippled with hay shortages and exorbitant feed costs, cattle producers are digging out the last of their bales for the final weeks of winter weather. But these bales will likely be low quality, having sat in moisture or other undesirable conditions for most of the season.

According to Oklahoma State University Extension Agribusiness Livestock Specialist Derrell Peel, low-quality bales are costly in more ways than one. Poor-quality hay strips herds of nutrients and lowers the profit potential for producers. But poor storage and management are equally troubling, particularly for Missouri producers, who also happen to rank second in the nation for hay production and third for beef production.

For producers struggling with hay loss or poor-quality hay after last year’s drought conditions, a more targeted approach to when and how much hay is fed could help, according to Andy McCorkill, a Missouri University Extension livestock specialist. McCorkill says cheap hay isn’t worth it long-term, and not all round bales are created equal.

Read more on hay quality here.