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The Washington state alfalfa hay harvest has begun in the Southern Columbia Basin. Some growers go an early start on harvest this year. They were able to put up some nice quality hay. Unfortunately, rain fell after hay was cut and damaged about 70% of the early harvest. Cooler, wet weather delayed further harvesting as growers waited for the drier weather to arrive. Many growers were able to continue harvesting this week.
Grass tetany is a metabolic disorder seen in cattle that have not consumed enough magnesium and most commonly occurs in cattle that have been turned out on spring pasture after consuming hay all winter. Magnesium is an important component of enzymes that are used for cellular maintenance and growth, including DNA, RNA, and protein synthesis (1) and it also plays an important role in nerve transmission in skeletal muscle. Interestingly, unlike other essential minerals, there is no internal control mechanism to regulate magnesium levels (1). Excess magnesium is excreted by the kidneys in the urine, but magnesium is not stored in the kidneys. Therefore, when output, especially during lactation, exceeds input, cattle may develop hypomagnesemia or magnesium deficiency.
Can alfalfa hay be fed to pigs? Yes, however the amount that can be included in the diet depends on the nutritional quality of the alfalfa hay as well as the age and physiological status of the pigs. Unlike ruminant animals (cattle, sheep, and goats) that have four-chambered stomachs which are efficient fermentation vats, pigs are monogastric animals that have simple, one-chambered stomachs that do not efficiently digest diets that contain high percentages of roughage or fiber. In order to meet dietary energy requirements, pigs are generally fed diets that contain mostly cereal grains such as corn, barley or wheat. While high-quality alfalfa hay is a good protein source, the low digestible energy content of alfalfa hay compared to cereal grains limits its use in many swine diets. In addition, alfalfa hay contains several anti-nutritional factors, such as saponins and tannins that reduce the growth rate of young pigs. Therefore, feeding alfalfa hay to weaned and growing pigs is generally not recommended.
Anderson Hay & Grain Co., Inc. is honored to be a part of a new video series developed by the Washington State Department of Commerce. As the leading exporter of hay and straw products, Anderson Hay was asked to be featured in ‘Export Washington’. This series of short videos was created by Commerce to highlight Washington State companies who are stimulating the local economy by exporting local products. Commerce hopes to raise awareness about the many benefits associated with foreign exports.
The horse’s digestive system does not acclimate easily to sudden dietary changes. Abrupt turnout on lush pasture is almost certain to result in problems. Pasture grasses accumulate high levels of sugars during times of rapid growth. While simple sugars such as glucose and fructose are rapidly digested in the horse’s small intestine, fructan, a complex sugar, passes undigested to the large intestine where it is fermented into lactic acid by microbes. If a large amount of fructan-containing grass is consumed in a short period of time, a concentrated burst of lactic acid is released after microbial fermentation and cecal pH drops precipitously, which can lead to colic or laminitis.
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