Weekly: Brought to you by Hay & Forage
 Hay & Forage
 USDA Hay Prices
 A Primedia Property November 8, 2005 |  
Urban Garden Centers Market Hay, Straw To Area Gardeners
Top of the News New 6,000-Cow Dairy Planned In Iowa Alfalfa Is Sensitive To Low Soil pH
State Reports Illinois North Dakota Texas
Events Western Hay Business Conference And Expo, Nov. 29-30 Calendar
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This Week's USDA Hay Prices by State

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Urban Garden Centers Market Hay, Straw To Area Gardeners
Some producers have found a market for small square hay and straw bales at urban garden centers that strive to help meet gardeners' autumn needs. "We sell around 5,000 bales of hay and straw during the season," says Gary Affolter, garden hard goods buyer for Gertens Garden Center, Inver Grove Heights, MN. Gertens mainly caters to gardeners in the suburbs and communities surrounding Minneapolis and St. Paul. "Some of our customers buy bales for covering perennials and roses for the winter, while some bales are sold for fall decorating," Affolter explains. "We carry hay year-round and sell around 200 bales per month in May and June too, as people are looking for hay to use as mulch in gardens." Affolter notes that most of his hay-buying customers leave the store with between 2-6 bales.

Gertens Garden Center sells small square bales of reed canarygrass hay, alfalfa, and wheat straw for around $6/bale. Affolter says customers ask specifically for reed canarygrass for their gardens, perhaps because they know it has fewer weed seeds than other grasses. "We are looking for the cleanest hay we can find," Affolter says. He gets most of the garden center's hay and straw from producers in Minnesota, Wisconsin and North Dakota. Miniature straw bales are a popular item in Gertens' decorating department. "We sell plastic-wrapped straw bales that are about one-fourth the size of a regular bale," Affolter says. "We can hardly keep up with the demand for the mini bales. I'm always on the lookout for additional suppliers."

Contact Affolter at 651-239-1307.

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Top of the News
New 6,000-Cow Dairy Planned In Iowa
A proposed Iowa dairy could become a potential customer for the state's dairy hay producers, according to recent news reports. Natural Milk Production, LLP, Shelby County Dairy, is expected to operate a 6,000-cow herd, employ 60 people on-site and use 600,000 lbs of feed per day when in full production, according to reports in the Harlan Tribune. A permit application for the new dairy has been submitted to the Iowa Department of Natural Resources with hopes for a December approval. Plans are to begin dirt work construction as early as January and barn construction by April or May. Project managers anticipate being able to start milking a limited amount of cattle around October 2006, although it will take up to two years for the facility to operate at full capacity. Upon completion, the new dairy will milk cows 24 hours per day, seven days per week.

Source: Harlan Tribune.

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Alfalfa Is Sensitive To Low Soil pH
Of the forage crops, alfalfa is the most sensitive to soil pH, according to research reports in both the Pennsylvania Forage & Grassland News and University of Kentucky Forage News. The most pH-sensitive forage crops after alfalfa include red clover, white clover, birdsfoot trefoil and then the forage grasses. Low soil pH levels, according to researchers, influence the nitrogen fixation ability of the plants. The bacteria that live in legume roots and are responsible for nitrogen fixation aren't very active in low-pH soils. This means the crop can become nitrogen-deficient and lose yield. However, if N is applied to the low-pH soils, alfalfa yield stays high. As University of Kentucky forage experts explain it, it all boils down to adding less-expensive lime to maintain the proper pH or adding N.

Sources: University of Kentucky Forage News and Pennsylvania Forage & Grassland News.

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State Reports
Ron Tombaugh, owner of Dart Hay Service, Inc., was making baleage on his farm near Streator, IL, last week to try to make up for some of the lost yield from a dry 2005 growing season. "I only got about half of my hay crop this year because of the drought," he reports. "We've been exceptionally dry all year. Our corn crop normally yields around 150 bu/acre and it was in the 80- to 90-bu/acre range." Hay demand is good, both locally and nationwide, Tombaugh says. "Fuel prices are playing a big part in getting the hay to where it needs to be," he notes. "Fuel prices have added another 15-18% to the freight costs."

Tombaugh delivers hay throughout the country. Because his farm is located on a state highway, he can ship hay year-round. He raises 400 acres of hay and produces wheat and barley straw. He has a contract to supply a mushroom farm with 4 x 4 bales of straw, directly out of the field. He also produces 1-lb, 5 x 7" bales of straw for sale to craft markets and decorators throughout the U.S.

Tombaugh was recently elected vice president of the National Hay Association. He is a past member of the National Forage Testing Association Board of Directors and past president of the American Forage and Grassland Council (AFGC).

Call Tombaugh at 309-531-HAAY, or visit his web site at

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North Dakota
Many North Dakota hay producers found it difficult to make high-quality hay this season, according to Dwain Meyer, North Dakota State University extension agronomist. "Our hay yields were very high this year because of above-normal precipitation. But our quality is very poor because we had continuing rain problems while trying to get hay up," Meyer says.

"We had some of the worst spring damage to alfalfa in a long time," he adds. "The late-April frost came when alfalfa was in the 3-5" height stage. "We got an 18-degree frost that occurred twice on back-to-back nights. We had some of the worst stem loss ever seen in the 36 years I have been here." Because of the frost, first-harvest yield was down slightly. Overall yields for the season, however, were actually above normal after the wet summer.

Meyer expects top-notch hay to be hard to find in North Dakota this winter. "Beef is our No. 1 livestock unit in the state, and I would expect beef-cow hay to be priced relatively low because of the increased amount of poorer-quality hay available."

An increasing amount of organic hay is being produced in North Dakota. "More organic crop producers are using organic alfalfa as a nitrogen source in their rotations with cereal crops and soybeans," Meyer explains. "And they are finding there is a growing market for organic alfalfa, predominantly in the horse market close to the Twin Cities in Minnesota."

Contact Meyer at 701-231-8154, or email

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Much of Texas is dry, and hay shortages are expected in the near future, say extension experts. "Hay will be scarce and expensive this fall and winter," reports Larry Redmon, Texas A&M extension forage specialist. Hay producers in central Texas reported a range of 50-75% crop loss. Travis Miller, extension program leader, says the majority of the state's hay crop is produced in areas that have been very dry this year, and hay harvests overall have been well-below average. Normally, producers in eastern Texas take three to four cuts of hay per year. This year they had one or two short cuts, says Joe Vendramini, extension forage specialist in Overton.

Miller says this year's hay harvests in some areas of the state won't be able to support livestock producers' hay needs. Carryover from a large 2004 hay crop, however, will help cover some of the shortage. Vendramini notes past dry periods have also caused the nutritive value of eastern Texas grasses to fall below average. In spite of this, Redmon says most of the state's hay should still be of good quality.

Charles Stichler, extension agronomist in Uvalde, says producers in his district have not cut adequate amounts of hay this year, and the quality was low. Bermudagrass is the most common hay grown here, Miller says. Sorghum-sudan, native grasses, and kleingrass are harvested in western parts of the state. Brent Bean, extension agronomist in Amarillo, says sorghum-sudangrass and alfalfa are common in his district. The sorghum-sudan, generally grown on dry land or under limited irrigation, is only cut once. Not a high-quality hay, it is mostly fed cattle during winter. The alfalfa is grown under irrigation, and most producers get five cuttings per year.

High-quality hay currently ranges $80-100/ton in parts of the state; the average price is about $68-70/ton. Alfalfa sells for $170-175/ton.

"While it has been a very dry year for the eastern, coastal and southern regions of the state, much of the High Plains and far western Texas have seen above-average moisture conditions," Miller says.

Source: Texas A&M University.

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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.
Western Hay Business Conference And Expo, Nov. 29-30
The 2005 Western Hay Business Conference and Expo kicks off Nov. 29 with tips from innovative hay growers on opening new markets and expanding sales. Ron Anderson, a hay marketer and past president of the National Hay Association (NHA), will talk about how NHA is taking U.S. alfalfa to Vietnamese dairies. Ken Vaupel, president of Ohio Blenders, will tell conference attendees about his experiences designing alfalfa products tailored to specific market needs. Speakers Bill Wailes, Colorado State University, and Barney Little, Aurora Organic Dairy, will offer views on organic hay markets, in addition to providing tips about what organic-dairy hay buyers are looking for from hay producers.

The popular topic of targeting hay sales to the fast-growing horse market will be addressed in a session discussing the size of the U.S. horse hay market. That session will also look at both where the market is located and what horse or boarding stable owners consider quality hay.

On Nov. 30, speakers will discuss how alfalfa is being designed for better performance in dairy rations. Dan Smith, Colorado State University, will help producers understand how to get the most alfalfa out of the least irrigation water. Breakout sessions will inform participants about computerizing their hay businesses and about the latest on Roundup Ready alfalfa. Conservation-friendly alfalfa and timothy seedbed establishment and a discussion of Relative Feed Value (RFV) vs Relative Forage Quality (RFQ) will complete the conference offerings.

Plan now to attend the Nov. 29-30 Western Hay Business Conference & Expo at The Ranch conference facility in Loveland, CO. Learn more about conference topics and find contact information for local hotels at Call Cindy Kramer at 952-851-4698 for more information.

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**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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