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Estimating Hay

Before seeking hay for sale, you first need to estimate your hay needs to get your animals through the winter. You next need to decide if you should buy hay that is baled as horse quality hay, timothy hay, orchard grass hay, alfalfa hay, coastal hay, or some combination of these hay grasses.

Here in Texas, we usually get three cuttings of hay each year. So a rancher like myself cannot possibly use all the hay from my acreage. But how much should I store, and how much should I sell? The weights of hay bales vary widely. When buying hay by the bale, you should weigh several representative bales and then figure the cost per ton. Typically small square hay bales weigh 50 to 70 lbs each.

In addition, when you buy hay, get horse quality hay that is free of mold and has a sweet smell.

The following example shows how to estimate how much hay you'll need.

You should weigh your animals monthly as part of your regular herd management routine. Use the most recent weights for calculating the body weight data. If you don't have a scale, then estimate about 150 lbs. per adult alpaca and 75 lbs per cria. You may assume that each animal eats about 2 percent of its body weight per day. 2 percent is very generous and also allows for some waste. The 2 percent of body weight assumtion also works for llamas. Here in Texas, we need hay for Nov, Dec, Jan, Feb, and Mar, or for 151 days.

At this rate of feeding, if you have 10 adult alpacas with an average body weight of 150 lbs, your hay requirement for the Winter can be calculated as follows:

150 lbs x 10 alpacas = 1,500 lbs
1,500 lbs of animals to feed at 2 percent (1,500 x .02) = 30 lbs/day
30 lbs x 151 days = 4,530 lbs of hay

Since feed requirements are based on a dry matter needs, assume that your the hay is 5% moisture (.95% dry matter). It is then necessary to make an adjustment for the water content.

4,530/.95 = 4304 lbs of usage for a hay which is 95% dry matter

Assume the average bale weighs 70 lbs.

4304/70 = 61 bales are needed to get 10 alpacas weighing 150 lbs through the winter at Able Oaks Ranch in Texas.

Alpacas Have Different Energy Needs

Not all alpacas have the same energy needs. You should send a hay sample in for analysis of protein.

  • Adult maintenance needs can be met with an 8-10 percent protein
  • Pregnancy for the first 8-9 months may only require 10-12 percent
  • Pregnancy in the last 2-3 months may need 12-14 percent
  • Lactation has a higher requirements 13-15 percent
  • Crias less than 6 months 14-16 percent
  • Juveniles 12-14 percent

It is impractical to get a hay with a protein level to meet all the needs of the six groups above, so you have to make adjustments in the amounts that you feed, according to energy requirements and/or add additional protein (alfalfa or supplemental feed). In addition, not every animal within one of the six groups will maintain weight on the same prescribed diet for that group. Some will loose, while others will gain. Further adjustments may be necessary by separating animals out for more or less pellets.

This page was last updated on June 10, 2009.

Able Oaks Ranch 6167 FM1857 S. Rusk TX 75785 | 903-530-1009