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Grazing Animals Prefer Afternoon HayBy Jill Lee
February 26, 1997
If farmers want their livestock to eat more and gain more weight, theyd better make hay while the afternoon sun shines.
One possible explanation: Plants carbohydrate production is at its peak at midday. The animals may remember afternoon-harvested hay is easier to digest and gives them more energy. Other studies have shown animals can be conditioned to choose higher-energy feeds.
Its long been known that livestock grazing tends to peak in the afternoon. This led researchers to explore whether cutting hay later in the day could boost consumption.
Scientists let the animals try afternoon-cut hay and morning-cut hay before offering both in a side-by-side comparison. Sheep, goats and cattle all consumed an average of 50 percent more of the preferred hays. Their preference held true even though the hay offered was from harvests on three different days.
The scientists also noted the livestocks top picks among the afternoon hays to make sure cutting time was the key factor in the animals choices. Each hay underwent 15 comparisons.