CRP Hay: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly

CRP hay is not something cattle producers use annually and many may be unfamiliar with its characteristics. Thus, I will discuss my thoughts on CRP hay… The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly.

The good of CRP

We have forage for cattle to consume. Without a base forage, you may have had to resort to limit-feeding high concentrate diets which increases risk of bloat as well as have cows more unsatisfied. Limit feeding cows will cause them to bawl more and put pressure on fences, so having filler like CRP hay can solve these problems. Likely, CRP hay was economical to put up or purchase. The Good is simply that we have something for cows to keep their bellies full and provide a base forage to their diet.

The bad of CRP

CRP hay is poor quality forage. It should be viewed as a feed ingredient, not the entire diet. Hay from CRP will be low to moderate in protein (8-10%CP) and low energy (<50% TDN). Cattlemen need to supplement this forage with protein and energy. Co-products, grains, or other supplements are needed to meet nutrient requirements of the cow. In many cases, this forage will be mature and long stemmed. Consequently, the rumen will have to work hard to digest this forage. Supplemental protein will be needed to help feed the rumen microbes and ensure proper digestion. Bottom line, test your CRP hay and supplement it accordingly.

The ugly of CRP

Something we may not immediately think about is the potential of CRP hay to contain a large amount of weeds and more importantly weed seeds. These weed seeds are likely to end up in the manure of cows that are fed this hay. Where this manure is deposited or spread is important to controlling future weed populations. If you are feeding CRP hay on pastures, be aware that you may be introducing numerous weeds to your pasture.


All in all, cattle can utilize poor quality forages.

  • Hay from CRP acres will likely need supplemented to meet cow nutrient requirements.
  • Thus, it is important to test this forage and utilize co-product feeds and/or grains to supplement protein and energy.
  • Be aware that weed seed may be of higher inclusion in this hay and feeding areas may need to be managed for weed control in the future.

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