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 USDA Hay Prices
 A Primedia Property September 20, 2005 |  
Hurricane Wallops Hay Growers And Their Customers
Top of the News
Texas And New Mexico See Growing Demand For Dairy Hay
State Reports
Iowa Hay Auction Report
Calendar of Events
Register Now For Western Hay Business Conference And Expo

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Hurricane Wallops Hay Growers And Their Customers
Mississippi hay growers seem to have taken the hardest hit from Hurricane Katrina, but producers in Louisiana and Alabama also suffered damage. The damage was so severe that more than two weeks after the storm, it was still difficult to obtain reports from some of the hardest-hit areas.

Some officials estimate more than $2 billion in damage to agricultural industries in Mississippi and $1 billion in Louisiana. Alabama, which was less severely affected, has not yet compiled official damage figures. USDA has designated all of Mississippi's 82 counties disaster areas, making them eligible for federal assistance programs.

Mississippi -- Close to two-thirds of the state's hayfields were damaged. "Initial damage assessments look pretty bad," says Richard Watson, Mississippi State University extension forage specialist. "There are an estimated total 750,000 acres of hay grown in Mississippi, and I would say maybe 500,000 acres of them are in the southern half of the state. You are probably looking at $40-50 million worth of hay that has been lost."

Hancock and Harrison counties along the Gulf Coast were subjected to a tidal surge that left pastures and hayfields filled with saltwater. "Just about every hay barn in the southern end of the state has probably been blown over," Watson says. "What hay has been put up this year in that area has been affected in some way, either rained on or blown away. There is significant loss."

Pastures were damaged extensively, too. That means winter grazing may not be an option in southern Mississippi. Bill Herndon, Mississippi State University extension economist, points out that the damages and a lack of time and tractor fuel will also have a huge impact on ryegrass planting. Ryegrass serves as a major feed source for dairy producers from October or November until April or May each year. Dairy farmers unable to plant ryegrass will be forced to replace this forage crop with hay and feedgrains. Herndon notes that the majority of the dairy farms in both Mississippi and Louisiana are located in the hurricane-ravaged area. There are around 230 dairies in Mississippi and about 320 dairies in Louisiana, he says. At least 60% of those dairies are located in that most heavily impacted area. Dairies have had to dump their milk because they were without power; they were also unable to get fuel to power generators. The hurricane winds blew the wrappings off baleage too, resulting in spoiled feed. Fences were ruined by falling trees and debris.

Watson notes that some northern Mississippi producers have donated hay to help their southern neighbors. But many roads are still blocked, fuel is not readily available, equipment is damaged and communication with that part of the state is still hit and miss. "It isn't just the lack of hay and feed down there; there are logistical problems as well."

Prior to the hurricane, eastern and southern Mississippi had a good hay season with regular rainfall throughout the summer and good yields. "We're probably going to have yields of over 3 tons/acre, which is pretty good for the state," says Watson. "There was plenty of hay around, but a good amount of that hay will be ruined, washed away, or will have salt on it. It's going to put a lot of pressure on livestock producers in the southern end of the state as they try to find enough feed from now through the winter." North of Interstate 20, hay that was under cover should be safe because there wasn't much wind. Producers in northern Mississippi experienced minimal hay losses, according to Watson.

To learn more about donating hay or fencing supplies, call Watson at 662-325-5463.

Louisiana -- Ed Twidwell, Louisiana State University agronomist, says there will be opportunities for hay growers outside the state to sell to Louisiana customers. "We had been having a dry summer in Louisiana and there hadn't been as much hay available to start with, so hay supplies are tight. Most producers who were not affected by the storm will not cut as much hay as they had hoped to this fall," he reports.

Twidwell says most of the damage to both dairy and forage production is centered in southeastern Louisiana. In Plaquemines Parish, located south of New Orleans, saltwater damaged pasture grasses, and wind and falling trees took out fences in the area. There may be a problem finding pastures for cattle and horses, he adds. In parishes directly north of New Orleans, there should be a market for both dairy and horse hay because people are concerned about having enough hay and pasture to get through the winter.

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Top of the News
Texas And New Mexico See Growing Demand For Dairy Hay
The dairy industry is thriving in West Texas and eastern New Mexico, so many crop producers in the region are looking at alfalfa as an alternative or rotation crop, according to Texas A&M University. The university is working to educate hay growers on how they can produce a better product and market successfully to the dairy industry.

Bryan Boehning, a Bailey County dairyman, provided some insight at a recent Texas Cooperative Extension regional alfalfa workshop. "It's this in a nutshell -- we want hay with a good green color, 12-15% moisture content, and the highest relative feed value (RFV) we can get," says Boehning. "An RFV of 150 is the bottom end of what I will take. I prefer hay rated at 185 to 190. Anything rated from 190 to 230 is what we consider premium hay."

The alfalfa sector in parts of West Texas and eastern New Mexico is turning from producing horse hay to selling high-quality dairy hay, which requires a higher level of management, explains Curtis Preston, an extension agent in Bailey County. "Knowing your buyer and what he wants in terms of feed value is a crucial component of successful marketing," he says.

"We test everything on our place before it is fed," says Boehning. "Our nutritionist uses two or three different labs to get all our feed analyzed. We blend a variety of protein and starches with our hay to make the total ration. That includes corn, sorghum and wheat silage and some distillers' grain from the ethanol plant in Portales, NM. We also blend hays because what we buy falls into a range of feed values. For that reason, we will take all the 180 to 200 RFV hay we can find."

Boehning's cows produce an average of 72 lbs of milk per day from three milkings. Plenty of hay is kept on hand to help make the blended ration. "We keep a stockpile of hay on hand at all times," Boehning says. "We try to buy and stockpile enough hay by January to last us through May. Our equipment is set up to handle large square bales. We prefer 4 x 8' square bales."

"New and existing dairies on the High Plains are the main market for alfalfa producers here," says Calvin Trostle, extension agronomist based at Lubbock. According to the Texas Agricultural Statistics Service, Texas producers harvested more than 855,000 tons of alfalfa from 150,000 acres in 2004, with an average yield of 5.7 tons per acre. They received an average price of $132/ton, and generated more than $112 million in farm-gate receipts statewide.

Trostle has put together a packet of alfalfa information for West Texas and High Plains producers that includes university alfalfa variety trials, and guides to common production problems and considerations. It's available on the Internet at Trostle can be reached at 806-746-6101 or


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State Reports
Iowa Hay Auction Report
The Dyersville Sales Company, Dyersville, IA, reports moderate summertime offerings with fairly good demand at its Sept. 14 hay auction. A total of 543 tons were sold. Top on hay was a load of fourth-cutting alfalfa that sold for $115/ ton. A load of 208 relative feed value hay from Nebraska sold for $155/ton delivered directly to the buyer. Premium-quality round bales averaged $80-90/ton and good round bales sold for $50-70/ton. Demand was very good for second-, third- and fourth-cutting square bales.

"Very nice, top-end fancy round bales net-wrapped with color all sold well, while lower-end hay, and round bales of hay with twine sold lower," says Dale Leslein, hay auction manager. A thousand small square bales sold for $1.90-2.30/bale. "Overall demand was good for better-end hay with color and made right, and if it didn't fall into that category, demand was lower," Leslein says. The straw market was lower, with 3 x 3' bales of good wheat straw selling for $27.50/bale and large round bales of fair straw bringing $15/bale.

"Locally we have had some of the best weather in years for baling," says Leslein. "The ground is bone dry and rock hard and we have had lots of wind and sun, which have led to some of the highest-quality hay made in years. The third and fourth cuttings being made are outstanding in tons and quality. A few farmers will get a fifth crop made for the first time ever."

The next sale will be held at 11 a.m., Wed., Sept. 21. Visit the Dyersville Sales Company hay auction Web site at, or contact Leslein at 563-875-2481 or

Hay demand is good in parts of Nevada, says Pete Cassinelli, Winnemucca. However, he says hot nights have meant hay isn't testing quite as well as in some years. Cassinelli sells mostly to the dairy market. He says demand is good for hay that tests 55% TDN and above. He has been selling some small bales this year to the horse market, too.

Cassinelli raises 700 acres of hay in addition to being a seed dealer. Two weeks ago he planted 125 acres of Roundup Ready alfalfa. "I am hoping to gain back the additional cost of the seed because I'm hoping my herbicide costs will be less, yield will be better and the stand will last longer," he says.

Contact Cassinelli at 775-421-2459.

Hay producers are working on their last cutting in central Oregon, reports Mylen Bohle, area extension crops agent at Prineville. "The latter part of the summer has provided good harvest weather, whereas we ran into a lot of rain showers with the first cutting," he says. "Overall it has been a good year without many insect problems." Because some first cuttings were delayed in central Oregon, and the first and second cuttings were damaged by rain in the Columbia Basin, there may not be quite as much quality hay as usual in the state. However, second-, third- and fourth-cutting hay quality seems to be pretty good in central Oregon, according to Bohle. Demand is expected to remain strong from area dairies into the winter.

Some irrigation districts are running low on water in Oregon. "The rains we got in late spring and early summer helped stretch our irrigation water this year, but snow pack last winter was below average, which will affect next year's irrigation water supplies," says Bohle. "Our Cascade Mountain range is pretty bare right now and I would suspect we will be looking at irrigation shortages in 2006."

Bohle says a few fields of Roundup Ready alfalfa are being planted in central Oregon. Some producers are waiting for export approval before planting the new product. "Producers need to pencil out whether Roundup Ready alfalfa is a good choice for them," he says. "I think it could be a very useful tool for producers who have tough weeds in certain fields."

Producers growing spring wheat for hay in the area have seen some reduced yields and lower palatability due to stripe rust infestation this summer. "There have been about a dozen new rust strains come through the Pacific Northwest and they have just decimated some spring wheat fields," Bohle says.

He's encouraging Oregon growers to enter the Oregon Hay King Contest. The hay quality contest will be held at the Jefferson County Fairgrounds in Madras, Oct. 15. Learn more about the contest by contacting Bohle at 541-447-6228.


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Calendar of Events
Register Now For Western Hay Business Conference And Expo
Don't forget to register for the 2005 Western Hay Business Conference and Expo, Nov. 29-30 in Loveland, CO. It will be held at The Ranch conference facility in Loveland. Learn more about the conference and register by calling Cindy Kramer at 952-851-4698, or by visiting the conference Web site at

**Sept. 17 & 24 -- Northern Michigan Grazing School, Wolverine and Harrisville, respectively. Contact Norman Suverly at 989-724-6478 or

**Sept. 29-Oct. 1 -- National Hay Association 110th Annual Convention, Embassy Suites Hotel, Lexington, KY. Call the National Hay Association at 800-707-0014.

**Oct. 4-8 -- World Dairy Expo, Alliant Energy Center, Madison, WI. Visit

**Oct. 15 -- Oregon Hay King Contest, Jefferson County Fairgrounds, Madras, OR. Contact Mylen Bohle for more information at 541-447-6228.

**Oct. 31-Nov.4 -- Pacific Northwest Forage Worker's Conference, Research and Extension Center, Prosser, WA. Contact Mylen Bohle at 541-447-6228, or Steve Fransen at 509-786-9266,

**Nov. 21-22 -- Iowa Forage and Grassland Council Annual Meeting, Des Moines Airport Holiday Inn. Contact Joan O'Brien at 800-383-1682.

**Nov. 29-30 -- Western Hay Business Conference and Expo, The Ranch, Loveland, CO. Learn more by calling Cindy Kramer at 952-851-4698, or by visiting the conference Web site at

**Dec. 2 -- Sheep and Meat Goat Training Program, Kirksville, MO. Contact Bruce Lane at 660-665-9866 or Garry Mathes at 660-665-7049. Or go to and click on Sheep and Meat Goat Training Program.

**Dec. 2-3 -- Missouri Livestock Symposium, Kirksville. Programs on sheep, meat goats, stock and guard dogs, horses, beef cattle, forages, swine, crops and more. Name entertainment and trade show. Details at, or call Bruce Lane at 660-665-9866 or Garry Mathes at 660-665-7049.

**Dec. 6-7 -- Midwest Dairy Expo, St. Cloud Civic Center, St. Cloud, MN. The 2005 expo features nationally known speakers, educational programs and exhibits of dairy supplies and services. Contact trade show coordinator Eir Garcia-Silva of the Minnesota Milk Producers Association at 320-203-8336 or

**Dec. 7-8 -- Midwest Forage Association Farm Bill Forum and Research Summit, Holiday Inn Select, Minneapolis, MN. Contact Midwest Forage Association for more information at 651-484-3888.

**Dec 12-14 -- California Alfalfa & Forage Symposium and Trade Show, Visalia. Learn more at or contact

**Dec. 15 -- Alabama Forage Conference, Troy. Learn more at or call Don Ball at 334-844-5491.

**Jan. 18-19 -- Washington State Hay Growers Association Convention and Trade Show, Three Rivers Convention Center, Kennewick. Learn more at

**Jan. 19-20 -- Southwest Hay Conference & Trade Show, Ruidoso Convention Center, Ruidoso, NM. Learn more at, or call 505-626-5677 or 505-622-8080.

**Jan. 25-26 -- Heart of America Grazing Conference, Cave City, KY. Call 270-365-7541.

**Feb. 7-8 -- Nebraska Alfalfa Marketing Association's Mid-America Alfalfa Expo, Kearney. Contact Barb Kinnan at 800-743-1649 or visit

**Feb. 23 -- Kentucky Alfalfa Conference, Lexington. Contact Garry Lacefield at 270-365-7541, ext. 202.

**Feb. 27-28 -- Idaho Hay and Forage Association Meeting, Red Lion Canyon Springs Hotel, Twin Falls. Learn more at

**Mar. 10-14 -- 2006 American Forage and Grassland Council Conference, Westin Riverwalk Hotel, San Antonio, TX. Learn more at, or call Dana Tucker at 800-944-2342.

**March 14-15 -- Midwest Hay Business Conference and Expo, Ramkota Hotel, Sioux Falls, SD. Sponsored by Hay & Forage Grower.

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Lora Berg, Editor, eHay Weekly,


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