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 In Today's eHay Weekly
 July 6, 2010

Workshop Explores Alfalfa's Role As Biofuel
Forage's Marketing Margin Offers Optimism
Hay Acreage Down Slightly
Watch For Heat Damage In Moist Hay
Simply Stated
State Reports: Minnesota, Virginia
NC Forage Field Day Is This Month
Texas Range Workshop Set For July 26
Calendar Of Events
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Top Of The News

Workshop Explores Alfalfa's Role As Biofuel
By Fae Holin
Managing Editor, Hay & Forage Grower

If grown in rotation with corn, alfalfa could be a biofuel crop destined to help attain the Renewable Fuel Standards' biofuel production goal of 36 billion gallons by 2022. But a number of challenges must be overcome before an alfalfa-corn production system – producing cellulosic biomass for biofuels and livestock feed – can become reality. So said speakers and others at a workshop in Johnston, IA, last week.

“Alfalfa/Corn Rotations for Sustainable Cellulosic Biofuels Production” was hosted by the National Alfalfa and Forage Alliance (NAFA) and National Corn Growers Association. Sponsored by alfalfa seed companies and seed producer organizations, the workshop speakers included USDA and university researchers as well as representatives from four biofuel companies.

Two-year rotations of alfalfa with corn could supply cellulosic biomass for biofuels as well as food and feed, improve corn yield by 5-15% with alfalfa’s soil-holding properties and nitrogen-fixing capabilities, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions, speakers contended. Research on equipment that separates alfalfa leaves and stems, using stems as biomass and leaves as high-protein feed, have been in the works for years. See “Alfalfa: Queen of Biomass, Too?”
Click here to read the entire story.




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Forage's Marketing Margin Offers Optimism
By Fae Holin
Managing Editor, Hay & Forage Grower

Forage producers should be optimistic about their future, said Matt Boatright, a former Missouri state representative, longtime grazier, vice president of FCS Financial in Sedalia and keynote speaker at the American Forage & Grassland Council's annual conference last month in Springfield.

Boatright, who owns a beef cattle and meat-goat operation near Sedalia, said farmers have the advantage of having a marketing margin. “This marketing margin is all about trading what you have for what someone else wants. We live in a hungry world, folks. We have a lot of people out there whose main goals in life are to increase their standards of living enough to graduate from a bean and rice diet to a meat protein diet. If you look at statistics the world over, and one major area of this world, Asia, you see the prediction of about 300 million more consumers coming into a middle-class lifestyle ... when they move from $300/year annual income to $1,000/year annual income.

“Folks desire animal protein and as soon as they have the opportunity in their budgets, they will buy it.”

Click here to read the entire story.




Hay Acreage Down Slightly
U.S. hay growers expect to harvest 59.7 million acres of all hay in 2010, down slightly from last year’s figure, according to an acreage report issued last week by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS).

Expected harvested area of alfalfa and alfalfa mixtures, at 20.7 million acres, is down 2%, and all other types of hay total 38.9 million acres, up 1%.

Acreage of alfalfa and alfalfa mixtures is expected to decrease or remain unchanged from last year in all estimating states except Arizona, Montana, New York, Oregon, Texas and Utah. While Montana’s acreage is expected to increase by 100,000 acres, large declines are expected in North Dakota and Minnesota, down 180,000 and 100,000 acres, respectively. Other states with decreases of 50,000 acres or more include California, Kansas, Pennsylvania and Washington.

Compared with last year, harvested acreage of all other types of hay is expected to increase or remain unchanged in all but 10 states. Increases of 100,000 acres or more are expected in Missouri, Montana, Texas, Virginia and Washington. Texas is expecting the largest increase (more than 300,000 acres) as producers there look to replenish hay supplies after last year’s severe drought. Decreases of 100,000 acres or more are expected in Kansas, Kentucky, New York, Oklahoma and South Dakota.




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Watch For Heat Damage In Moist Hay
If you baled some first-cutting hay a little tough due to high humidity and frequent rain showers, be on the lookout for mold, spoiling or heat damage, advises University of Nebraska Extension forage specialist Bruce Anderson.

“Excessive heat can cause hay, and especially the protein, to be less digestible,” says Anderson. “Heat-damaged hay often turns brownish and has a sweet caramel odor. Cattle often eat this hay readily, but because of the heat damage, its nutritional value may be low.”

Most heat in hay is caused by the metabolic activity of microorganisms. Millions of these microbes exist in all hay, but they thrive when moisture is abundant.

As the metabolic activity of the microbes increases, the hay temperature increases. Hay with only a little excess moisture probably won’t get warmer than 120 degrees F. Wetter hay, though, can quickly get as warm as 150 degrees. Hay that gets this warm nearly always becomes discolored, and nutritional value can be very low.

If hay temperatures rise above 170 degrees, chemical reactions can produce enough heat to quickly raise temperatures to over 400 degrees and cause a fire. “Be alert to this potential fire hazard and store wet hay away from buildings and other hay,” says Anderson. “Also, before feeding wet hay, be sure to get a thorough forage test to determine its nutritional value.”




Simply Stated
“Seldom are high court opinions that one-sided. Farmers and American business won. Environmental wackos lost.” – Harry Cline, editor of Western Farm Press, commenting about claims made by the Center for Food Safety that the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent seven-to-one decision in favor of Monsanto’s position on Roundup Ready Alfalfa was actually a victory for opponents of genetically engineered crops. Read the entire editorial.

"We can't control when the rains come, the winds blow or when the sun will shine. Agriculture is in a partnership with mother nature when it comes to weather." – Washington Gov. Christine Gregoire commenting on why she asked USDA chief Tom Vilsack to declare an agriculture disaster for 29 counties. In some parts of the state, more than 90% of first-crop alfalfa was damaged by rains in May and June. Source: KNDO-TV, Yakima, WA.


"It's looking good across the board. With hay off to a slow start this extra forage has really helped our ranchers out. The only downside is that the heat will turn the grass brown awfully quick at the lower elevations." – Idaho Farm Bureau range expert Wally Butler explaining the effects of steady spring rains for ranchers in Adams County, ID. Butler expects hay prices to stay strong until the supply improves later this summer. Source: Idaho Farm Bureau blog.




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State Reports: Minnesota, Virginia
Minnesota
It’s been a tough year for making good-quality horse hay in east-central Minnesota, says Butch Cardinal of Cardinal Brothers Hay Sales in Hugo.

“We started out just fine,” says Cardinal. He and his brother, Jim, grow alfalfa-grass and straight grass (mostly orchardgrass and timothy) on 650 acres. They package most of their hay in small square bales weighing 55-70 lbs. Their primary market is made up of horse owners living within a 70-mile radius of the Twin Cities.

“The stuff we cut early was really nice. We were able to get a couple hundred acres put up. But then in mid-May it started raining and it kept up all the way through June.”

As of late last week, they still had 150 acres of first-crop hay to harvest. “We should be getting going on second crop by now,” says Cardinal. “Ordinarily, we’ll get three cuttings a year. But this year we’re probably only going to get two on a lot of our grass hay.”

He reports that, so far in 2010, hay prices are running fairly close to last year’s level. “Where they go from here is anybody’s guess,” he says. “With all the rain we’ve had, there’s going to be a lot of beef hay around. But good horse hay might be tough to find. I look for prices to hold steady and maybe even get a little stronger, depending on what happens with the weather.”

Read more about the Cardinals in the Hay & Forage Grower articles, “Beating The Horse Market” and “Tracking Teff.” To reach them, phone 612-325-2749 or email cardinalbros@msn.com.

Virginia
Educating horse owners about the value of high-quality hay is an ongoing battle for Charles Roff, owner of Old Dominion Hay Co. in Smithfield. Roff buys high-quality hay from growers nation-wide for resale in Virginia.

“With the economy the way it is, a lot of horse owners are trying to get by as cheaply as they can,” he says. “They’re looking for bargains. Rather than pay $20 for a 100-lb bale of high-quality hay out of the Western U.S., they’ll spend $8 for a 30-lb bale of weed-patch hay. They don’t understand that, when they buy lower-quality hay, they’re shortchanging the horse on digestible energy. What they save on their hay bill now, they end up spending later for concentrates or for a vet bill if the horse gets sick. In the feed business, cheap is generally the most expensive.”

The sluggish recovery in the general economy continues to hinder demand for horse hay in his area. For the just-ended 2009-10 fiscal year, business at Old Dominion Hay was down 20% from the previous year’s number. “A lot of people were getting rid of their horses because they just didn’t have the disposable income, and a horse is an expensive animal to feed,” he says. “It seems like horse numbers are leveling off now, but if we get a double-dip recession, that could turn things around the other way again. It could be four or five years before we get back to previous levels.”

To contact Roff, phone 757-357-4878 or email odh@charter.net.




Events

NC Forage Field Day Is This Month
A Forage Field Day will be held July 20 at the Mountain Research Station near Waynesville, NC.

Along with a demonstration and calibration of seeding equipment, a demonstration of strip grazing and herbicide spraying are also planned. Educational presentations on weed identification, soil sampling and livestock watering equipment will also be part of the day’s activities.

Several hay equipment manufacturers will be on hand to display and demonstrate equipment for cutting, tedding, raking and baling hay. Additionally, distributors of hay storage systems, hay feeding equipment, animal health products and chemical applicators will be in attendance to answer questions about products.

For more information, contact the station at 828-456-3943.




Texas Range Workshop Set For July 26
Educating area ranchers and the community on range and pasture improvement and the different options they have for managing their properties will be the focal point of a range management workshop scheduled for July 26 at the Kinney County Civic Center in Brackettville, TX.

Sponsored by Texas AgriLife Extension, the workshop will include presentations on the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP) and Wildlife Habitat Incentive Program. Landowners planning to attend are encouraged to bring along forb, grass or shrub species they need help identifying.

The cost is $5. Attendees are asked to RSVP by July 23. For more information, contact the AgriLife Extension office in Kinney County, 830-563-2442.




Calendar Of Events
July 15 -- Central Wisconsin Forage Council Summer Field Day. 1-3 p.m., Bill Herr Farm, Greenwood. Get info.

July 20-22 -- Wisconsin Farm Technology Days, Roger and Bev Peterson farm, south of River Falls. Get details.

July 21-- Illinois Forage Expo/Hay Contest, 9 a.m-3 p.m., Law-Rae Dairy Farm, Manteno. Get details or call 815-772-4075 or email gmclark@illinois.edu.

For a complete list of upcoming events, click here.



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