Choose Target Market, Then Grow What Hay Market
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 www.hayconference.com to learn specifics or to
register online. Registrations can also be made by calling
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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
How to sample and visually inspect hay for best selection.
Signs of toxicity problems caused by fungi, plants, insects and
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
https://webstore.aces.uiuc.edu/shopsite/A3772.html or call
Drought Losses Hurt Hay Growers, Livestock
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
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
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
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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.
Much of Illinois is no better off now,
precipitation-wise, than at the peak of the drought in late July and
early August, reports USAgNet.com. 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.
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.
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,
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.
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. www.bayercropscienceus.com
**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 www.hayconference.com.
**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 missourilivestock.com and click on Sheep and Meat Goat
**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 missourilivestock.com, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
**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 alfalfa.ucdavis.edu or contact email@example.com.
**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 www.alabamaforages.com or call Don Ball at
**Jan. 18-19 -- Washington State Hay Growers Association Convention
and Trade Show, Three Rivers Convention Center, Kennewick. Learn
more at www.wa-hay.org.
**Jan. 19-20 -- Southwest Hay Conference & Trade Show, Ruidoso
Convention Center, Ruidoso, NM. Learn more at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 505-626-5677 or
**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
**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 www.idahohay.com/.
**March 10-14 -- 2006 American Forage and Grassland Council
Conference, Westin Riverwalk Hotel, San Antonio, TX. Learn more at
www.afgc.org, 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
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