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 A Primedia Property October 25, 2005 |  
Fall Growth Won't Smother Alfalfa This Winter
Top of the News Taking A Closer Look At Rail Transportation Costs Vietnamese Dairy Herds Create Possible Market For U.S. Hay
State Reports Idaho Minnesota Auction Report Wisconsin
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Fall Growth Won't Smother Alfalfa This Winter
Alfalfa has grown exceptionally well in Ohio this fall, reports Mark Sulc, Ohio State University agronomist. "I have received many questions as to whether this amount of growth going into the winter can harm the stand," he reports. "The fear is that the alfalfa will smother itself out this winter."

Sulc assures producers the excessive alfalfa growth won't harm the stand. "I have let stands of alfalfa go into winter with as much growth as we see this fall, and I've never experienced a problem or seen the crop smother out," he says. "Think about this: 75-80% of the alfalfa crop this time of year is water. In other words, the dry matter content is around 20-25%. So divide what you see out there by four, and that will be how much residue remains after a couple of hard frosts. There will be much less residue left than it appears right now."

If it were to snow early on warm soils covered with lush alfalfa, and the snow were to stay all winter, producers might see some snow mold on the alfalfa, Sulc notes. But that would be very rare in Ohio, with the exception of the lakeside snow belt. In southern Ohio, it's possible that alfalfa weevils could lay eggs in the alfalfa, potentially increasing weevil populations early next spring. However, that scenario could happen even with a lot less growth, and other factors also influence weevil populations in spring.

"There really is no need to take a cutting now in order to remove the large amount of alfalfa growth," says Sulc. Considering all factors, cutting earlier in October probably holds more risk to the stand than not cutting. Cutting too early in October means there will likely be enough good weather left for the alfalfa to regrow. "Regrowth will burn up precious root reserves that are needed for the winter and early spring," Sulc says. If the forage is really needed, he recommends considering a late fall harvest if the soil is well-drained. "By late, I mean as close as possible to a killing frost of alfalfa, which is 25 degrees Fahrenheit for several hours," he says. This often doesn't happen until sometime in November in Ohio. "I know that the weather is usually lousy in November for cutting forage, but waiting to get closer to the killing frost will prevent regrowth and loss of energy reserves, and will reduce the risk of less vigorous stands next spring."

A late-fall harvest should only be considered if the soil is well-drained and there is no history or risk of heaving on that soil. Without residue cover, the soil temperature will fluctuate much more and heaving is more likely. "This happened in a study at Wooster, when a Nov. 1 cutting resulted in heaving of up to 50% of the plants," Sulc reports. "Where no fall cutting was made, less than 10% of the plants heaved."

Fall management is one of the few controllable factors that will potentially influence the health of an alfalfa stand next spring, Sulc says. "If you don't need the forage, walk away from it and let it insulate your stand this winter. It won't smother out because of excessive alfalfa growth. If you need the forage, then take a cutting the last week of October or early November, and only on well-drained soils. Also, leave a 6" stubble. If you do cut this fall, leave some strips or areas that you don't cut within the same field. You might learn something interesting next spring about fall cutting on your farm by having those side-by-side comparisons!"

Contact Sulc at 614-292-9084.

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Top of the News
Taking A Closer Look At Rail Transportation Costs
The Red River Farm Network reports that South Dakota Sen. Tim Johnson wants the Federal Trade Commission's inspector general to investigate the high cost of rail transportation. While rail rates have come down, they remain at least triple what they were a year ago. "We're currently seeing prices between $1,800 and $2,000 per car for a 110-car shuttle train; rates have spiked as much as $2,600 per car," said Johnson. "Last year at this same time, prices hovered at around $600 per car."

The National Grain and Feed Association is asking the Surface Transportation Board to establish a more balanced regulatory oversight for the rail industry, according to the network. Without it, the group warns that U.S. agriculture faces a huge capacity challenge in the years ahead. A combination of tight rail capacity, problems on the upper Mississippi and Illinois waterways and hurricane-related disruptions will impact this harvest season.

Meanwhile, the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway has outlined a fuel surcharge program that will take effect Jan. 1. The new system for agriculture and coal customers is based on mileage. A BNSF spokesman said a mileage-based fuel surcharge is considered a more fair and equitable way of sharing transportation costs.

Source: Red River Farm Network.

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Vietnamese Dairy Herds Create Possible Market For U.S. Hay
Ho Chi Minh City officials have expressed a goal to expand the city's dairy herd to 80,000 cows by 2010, according to reports in the Saigon Times. The city is working to turn acres that have been devoted to rice cultivation into farmland to help support the increased cow herd. The city currently has 54,000 dairy cows, with plans to increase the herd to 57,000 cows by the end of 2005.

The National Hay Association has been working to develop a new market for U.S. hay in Vietnam. The NHA has spent the past three years working with dairy nutritionists and consultants, in addition to running field trials with U.S. hay in Vietnamese dairies, says Don Kieffer, executive director. Ron Anderson, Ellensburg, WA, will give a presentation about opening the Vietnamese market for U.S. hay during the Western Hay Business Conference & Expo in Loveland, CO, Nov. 29-30. Learn more about the conference at

Source: Saigon Times and Dairyline Radio.

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State Reports
Alfalfa production is expected to be a bit below normal in much of Idaho this year because cool, wet weather delayed first cutting and prevented producers from managing second cutting in a timely manner. That's according to a report in the state's Ag Weekly publication. Spring rains may also have contributed to challenges in finding high-quality hay, although some regions put up some extremely good hay. Hay prices remained steady last week, with supreme-quality hay bringing $128-135/ton and premium dairy hay selling for around $117. Good-quality hay is worth around $100, with fair-quality hay in the $70-75 range. Ag Weekly says adequate local forage crops and falling commodity prices have put southern Idaho dairies in a good position going into winter. According to USDA, Idaho dairy cow numbers were 39,000 higher last month than in September 2004.

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Minnesota Auction Report
The Pipestone Livestock Auction Market sold 10 loads of hay and straw at its Oct. 18 sale. One load of utility-quality large square bales of alfalfa sold for $42.50/ton. That same quality in large round bales sold for $32.50/ton, while round bales of good-quality alfalfa brought $70/ton. The top bid for good-quality small squares was $82.50/ton. Good grass hay sold for $75/ton in small square bales; $62.50/ton in large rounds.

Contact the Pipestone Livestock Auction Market at 507-825-3306.

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Many hay producers in parts of Wisconsin faced a challenging year of winterkill problems followed by dry weather. "We didn't get off to the best start this year because we had some winterkill concerns and that put folks in a position where they were scrambling this spring in order find hay stocks to feed," explains Ryan Tichich, Polk County extension agent, Balsam Lake. "Then people had to make decisions whether hayfields needed to be tilled up and planted to corn, which meant they had to make some unplanned changes in their rotations." Tichich says ice cover in fields was one of the main contributing factors to the winterkill. "Rain fell and snow melted and then refroze," he notes. "We had a good 2" of ice on our fields for around eight weeks, especially in some of the low areas. It was a lot like putting pavement on the stand for eight weeks because the ice suffocated the roots." Flat fields tended to be hit harder than rolling hills because the water didn't drain off.

Excellent rain fell throughout the area through June. First crop was sketchy for hay producers because it rained nearly every day. However, the second crop had excellent yields and quality. "Moving into July and August it got very dry and affected third-crop yields, plus new seedings struggled with the dry conditions," Tichich says. The Spooner, WI, research station had the driest July on record. "Folks in the northern part of Polk County were hit pretty hard this year, first with winterkill and then with the drought and lack of corn yields, too." He says it remains to be seen how many people will strive for a late-fall cutting after the first frost. "I think there is pretty good demand," Tichich says. "There is hay in western Wisconsin. But as you get into the central and eastern parts of the state there was also tremendous winterkill, and then they were hit hard by the drought. They are scrambling to get hay or corn silage."

The state of Wisconsin is requiring all farms to have completed premises identification by Nov. 1, as a step toward achieving animal identification of all U.S. farm animals. This is a hot topic among the state's livestock producers at the moment, Tichich says.

Contact Tichich at 715-485-8600.

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Trust us. Your cows will thank you for it.

Treat your alfalfa with SENCOR® Herbicide. It takes care of winter annuals that can seriously reduce nutritional value. So you get hay that's worth more and you'll get the kind of quality cuttings cows can really sink their teeth into.
**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 visit

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

**Dec. 7-8 -- Manitoba Grazing School, Keystone Centre, Brandon. Contact Marc Boulanger, Manitoba Agriculture, at 204-889-5699.

**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.

**Jan. 31- Feb. 1 -- Midwest Forage Association 2006 Symposium and Annual Meeting, Stoney Creek Inn, Mosinee, WI. Call MFA at 651-484-3888.

**Feb. 3 -- Northern Indiana Grazing Conference, Shipshewana. Call 260-463-3471, ext. 3.

**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

**March 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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