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Choose Target Market, Then Grow What Hay Market Wants
Top of the News Resources On Horses Drought Losses Hurt Hay Growers, Livestock Industry
State Reports Colorado Illinois Maryland Minnesota
Events Calendar
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Choose Target Market, Then Grow What Hay Market Wants
Establishing a new hayfield shouldn't be a spur-of-the moment decision, says Don Leonard of Don's Hay Service, Brush, CO. "The first thing to do is recognize the needs of the market you are trying to shoot for," he explains. Leonard urges producers to plan and prepare, then pay careful attention to production methods to grow good-quality hay that meets customer needs. He and Robert Wilson, University of Nebraska agronomist, will discuss the merits of conservation-friendly alfalfa and timothy seedbed preparation the second day of the Nov. 29-30 Western Hay Business Conference and Expo in Loveland, CO.

Identifying and becoming knowledgeable about the market you are targeting, as well as picking a reputable seed supplier, will help you buy the alfalfa that's right for you. "Knowing your market will help you to decide if you want three or four cuttings per year, and how long you want to go in between cuttings," he notes. "Get the best alfalfa seed you can find that works with your plan."

Make sure the field you've selected doesn't have harmful carryover herbicides, and that weeds are under control, Leonard suggests. Then prepare a good, firm seedbed. "Plant according to the best planting date for your seed," he adds. "Make sure you use the right kind of drill and follow the proper seeding rate."

After the first one or two years, when the alfalfa is established, Leonard suggests spraying the field to control broadleaf weeds. "Then, if you are satisfied with your stand and your weed control, you can interseed timothy," he states.

Leonard also urges producers to soil test, know their soil pH levels, and monitor nutrient levels.

The Western Hay Business Conference and Expo will be held at The Ranch conference facility in Loveland. Speakers will talk about innovative solutions to a wide variety of hay industry challenges, in addition to providing hay marketing tips. The conference includes a trade show devoted exclusively to hay industry products and services.

The cost to attend is $150. Refer to to learn specifics or to register online. Registrations can also be made by calling 800-722-5334.

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Top of the News
Resources On Horses
The University of Illinois offers several horse-related resources, including a publication, a CD-ROM and a Web site.

Buying Horse Hay is a $6 publication that includes:
  • Ways to spend less on feed and improve animal health.
  • Nutrition and digestive needs for various horse types at several growth stages.
  • How to sample and visually inspect hay for best selection.
  • Signs of toxicity problems caused by fungi, plants, insects and animals.
  • Methods for buying, transporting and storing hay.
  • It also has a pest identification guide among other features.
    The order code is A3772.

    Pastures for Horses: A Guide to Rotational Grazing is a CD-ROM that provides comprehensive information on rotational grazing as a means of maintaining healthy horses in a cost-effective, environmentally friendly operation. The order code is C1387-CD; the price, $58.

    Horsenet is a University of Illinois Web site that provides timely information to the state's horse owners. You'll find current topics, general guidelines for horse management, a calendar of upcoming horse-related events, a place to post questions for animal science experts and more.

    To order the publication or CD-ROM, visit or call 800-345-6087.

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    Drought Losses Hurt Hay Growers, Livestock Industry
    Only about half of the 2005 hay crop could be harvested in Texas because of the drought in the eastern half of that state. And that could cause livestock industry losses of up to $1 billion by next spring, estimates Carl Anderson, professor emeritus with Texas Cooperative Extension, and David Anderson, extension ag economist-livestock.

    The lack of rainfall kept many Texas farmers from harvesting second and third cuttings of hay. That is forcing ranchers to feed supplemental hay and protein to their livestock -- possibly for an extra three to five months.

    Other reasons for livestock losses, the extension experts say, are:
  • Fewer stocker calves in Central Texas, the Rolling Plains and the Panhandle -- again due to a lack of moisture. Stocker calves will be shipped straight to the feedlot at lighter weights.
  • Lower market prices for calves this fall.

  • Ranchers began selling lighter calves and taking lower prices this fall because they didn't have enough grazing for the winter, Carl Anderson adds. Ranchers -- especially those in the eastern two-thirds of the state -- have been hurt by the lack of forage since spring, he adds. "We're at the point now that, even if it does rain, with the short daylight hours and cool temperatures, there will be little winter growth of grass and wheat for grazing until spring."

    On the other hand, some parts of Far West Texas had record early spring rains and good summer and fall rains, says Bruce Carpenter, extension livestock specialist in Fort Stockton. "We've been dry since October, but we have good standing forage going into the winter," Carpenter says.

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    State Reports
    Colorado hay producers started out the 2005 season having depleted the carryover hay from previous years, says Don Leonard, Don's Hay Service, Brush. "Prices seemed to be good and strong at the beginning of this year," he reports. "I feel there is still good-quality hay out there and people want a little more money for the added harvest costs. However, I don't feel hay is moving as strong as it should. I am disappointed that hay prices aren't a little stronger."

    Producers in Leonard's area may be a bit short on hay this year as compared to hay supplies of previous years. "I think we will be off ¾-1 ton/acre, due to hot weather and not having as much rain as we normally have in the summer," he says. "We are under a water crunch where I live. Normally I grow about 1,500 acres of alfalfa and this year we are down to about 1,000 due to less water. Hopefully we are going to bring that back up."

    Leonard produces 3 x 3 and 4 x 4 bales of both horse and dairy hay and sells throughout the U.S. He delivers hay within Colorado and to surrounding states with his own trucks.

    Contact Leonard at 970-842-3058.

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    Much of Illinois is no better off now, precipitation-wise, than at the peak of the drought in late July and early August, reports Southern Illinois is the exception; parts of that area returned to more-normal precipitation levels in recent months, according to the USDA drought monitor.

    Overall, Illinois averaged just 1.41" of rain in October, less than half the normal rainfall of 2.91" for the month. Its yearly precipitation was 8.2" below normal through October. Large portions of northern Illinois, which is still considered in an extreme drought, and other isolated areas are a foot or more behind in annual precipitation.

    Many Illinois farmers are banking on a wet winter to put an end to the drought. Otherwise, they could begin the next growing season with conditions much drier than what they started with this year. The state's topsoil moisture last week was rated as 49% adequate, and just 4% surplus. Some climatologists say it will probably take several months of above-average precipitation to reverse the drought conditions.

    Temperatures have been warmer than normal since this summer. October temperatures averaged 54.9 degrees -- nearly a half-degree above average -- and marked the fifth-consecutive month in which Illinois temperatures were above normal. The first week of November averaged 51.9 degrees statewide -- 3.2 degrees above normal.


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    High-quality hay is in short supply in Maryland, leading to good marketing opportunities for those with quality hay on hand, says Lester Vough, University of Maryland forage systems management specialist. "We have an adequate supply of rain-damaged, over-mature, average-quality hay," he explains. "The early and middle parts of the summer were quite wet in Maryland. It was difficult to get hay put up without rain damage. Then, everything turned around in August and it got extremely dry. Our late-summer crop was short."

    Maryland recorded the driest September on record, followed by the wettest October. Pastures have been very short. "Beef producers who rely on pasture were feeding hay much earlier than normal," Vough says. "By the time the rain did come, it was so late that it reduced our fall production -- especially for farmers who rely on fall-saved tall fescue for late-fall and winter pasture. Their yields are way off. Our accumulated fescue going into winter is much shorter than normal, which puts some additional pressure on our hay market."

    Maryland's grass-hay growers have found trouble in their fields lately. "We have a significant problem with losing orchardgrass stands," Vough states. In some cases, the problem has been identified as grubs, while one or more diseases have been blamed in other instances. "It seems both insects and diseases are having an effect. Normally we think of our grass-hay crops as being relatively disease- and insect-free and now our two major hay grasses are getting clobbered by cereal rust mites in timothy and the orchardgrass problems. Our primary hay market in this area is for grass and mixed hay, so the problems are really impacting our grass-hay production." Vough says that Virginia, Delaware, New Jersey and Pennsylvania are having similar problems.

    Last week Maryland's temperatures fell from summer-like to winter in about 24 hours, Vough says. "We were in the upper 70-degree range on Wednesday, and then it was 40 degrees on Thursday and Friday."

    Contact Vough at 301-405-1322.

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    The economy is putting a price squeeze on farmers dealing with high fuel and fertilizer costs, says Mark Spielman, Spielman Farms, Inc., Twin Valley, MN. "I don't have any cattle, so I buy a lot of fertilizer, and that went up about $100/ton," he relates. "The cost of fuel makes it hard to justify trucking, too. And the returns haven't gone up all that much to help pay the difference. I have to spend a little more time pushing the pencil this winter to figure out my costs when hauling the hay long distances." Spielman takes his horse and dairy hay to feed stores, hay distributors and individuals in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Georgia and Pennsylvania. He reduced prices on hay sold right off the farm this year, encouraging local hay customers to buy more so he could truck less.

    Spielman specializes in small square bales of alfalfa and grass-mix hay. Most of his hay goes to the horse market; some goes to dairies. His horse hay and straw are both sold through feed stores. All of his hay is tested, and is typically sold in the 140- to 160-relative feed value range. Horse hay customers with breeding stock want to feed those mares high-quality hay. Those customers are interested in test results, Spielman says.

    Color is also crucial when selling horse hay. "If the color isn't just right, you don't even put it on the truck, because horse owners will reject the hay based on color," he says. "You just expect to have a lot of reject bales. It is the cost of doing business with the horse market." Discolored or rain-damaged hay goes to local beef producers.

    It's hard to find truck drivers willing to deal with small, square bales, he adds. That's partly why he often does his own trucking.

    Spielman usually gets four cuttings of hay per year. He only made three cuttings this year because of unseasonably cold, wet spring weather. In addition to 100 acres of hay, he raises 600 acres of wheat and sells wheat straw to a feed store near Duluth, MN. "I have two, 53' step-deck trailers that hold 650-680 straw bales," he explains. "I leave a full trailer at the feed store. The store sells bales right off the truck. I take the empty trailer home and fill it up again and then exchange it about every two weeks." He also raises corn, soybeans, and sunflowers.

    Contact Spielman at 218-567-8510.

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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.
    **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. 14-15 -- Kansas Hay and Grazing Conference, Hutchinson, at the fairgrounds. For pre-registration or more information, call KFRM Radio at 888-550-5376.

    **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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    Comments from Readers
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    Lora Berg, Editor, eHay Weekly,

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