Weekly: Brought to you by Hay & Forage
 Hay & Forage
 USDA Hay Prices
 A Primedia Property November 29, 2005 |  
Alfalfa Baleage Fits Producer's Schedule, Serves Market Niche
Top of the News Illinois Growers Can Certify Weed-Free Hay And Straw, Too Texas Irrigation Scheduling Network Improves Hay Barn Web Site Helps Gulf Coast Ranchers Locate Hay
State Reports Florida Iowa Auction Results Kansas
Events MFA Farm Bill Forum Is Dec. 7-8 Calendar
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Alfalfa Baleage Fits Producer's Schedule, Serves Market Niche
Producing high-quality alfalfa baleage works well for Don C. Myers, Spring Mills, PA. His careful attention to quality has helped him maintain a consistent market with area dairy producers. He discovered that making round bale silage gives him some flexibility when dealing with weather pressure, too. This flexibility was appreciated after years of trying to contend with rain showers and quality losses while making hay, he says.

Myers raises 50 acres of alfalfa in central Pennsylvania. He usually produces around 500 bales of silage per year; however, dry conditions this season cut that total almost in half. "I'm very particular about quality," he says. "When I got into baleage about seven years ago, a lot of other people were getting into it, too, because it seemed like an easy way to make hay without the weather risk. I figured I would have to do something different in order to make customers choose my product over John Doe's baleage."

Myers focused on producing a premium product. "I bale in the evening in order to take advantage of the dew. I put preservatives in my baleage and triple-wrap the bales, while most universities say to double-wrap," he says. "I'm very particular in terms of management and my customers know they are getting a consistent product from me. My customers are getting a product that generally tests over 150 relative feed value, with some testing over 200." He tries to keep his baleage in the 50-55% moisture range. He's very conscientious about weed control and proper storage, too.

He charges in the neighborhood of $50/bale. "My bales are 4' x 4'4" and normally have 850 to 950 lbs of dry hay equivalent in them, so at $50/bale I'm getting about $110 to $112/ton for dry hay equivalent," he says. "In my area it would be impossible to get that amount of hay put up as dry hay without some loss due to rain. I can do 20 acres of baleage per day and I get it cut when it should be cut. I eliminate weather risk and increase yield without the harvest and storage loss I would have with dry hay. It works well with my schedule." Myers typically gets four to five cuttings per year.

He maintains a Web site to show potential customers how his product is produced. "I started the site when I was working to get a market established," he says. "I had a harder time initially getting the right market for my product. I sold some baleage at an auction and advertised in local ag publications before I found a consistent market." Most of his baleage now goes to Amish dairy farmers, and he gets many new customers by word of mouth.

In an effort to help other farmers, Myers recently made a DVD outlining the steps he takes to produce quality baleage. The DVD will be available later this winter.

Contact Myers at 814-422-8111 or, or learn more about the Myers Farm operation at

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Top of the News
Illinois Growers Can Certify Weed-Free Hay And Straw, Too
Illinois hay producers will now be able to show proof to buyers that their bales don't contain noxious weeds, thanks to a new Certified Weed Free Forage and Mulch Program.

The Illinois Crop Improvement Association (ICIA), through the North American Weed Management Association, is offering the program. It's much like Indiana's Noxious Weed Seed-Free Forage and Mulch Certification Program mentioned in last weeks' eHay Weekly.

For complete information on the Illinois program, visit or contact Ryan Johnson at 217-359-4053 or For more on both programs, read the weed-free article on Hay & Forage Grower's home page at

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Texas Irrigation Scheduling Network Improves
The Texas High Plains Evapotranspiration Network, which provides plant water-use data to irrigators, has been upgraded and is easier to use. The improved network now provides users with data in several formats that can be plotted over the Web.

A new automated emailing system emails weather station outputs and data files to users rather than having them faxed. A user can then easily select single or multiple stations from which to get crop water use and meteorological data on a daily basis, says Thomas Marek, Texas Ag Experiment Station ag engineer.

The new database Web site is located at It provides convenient access to the network data sets, background information on data applications, network structure, and other information and tools. Users can select hourly or daily data for specific dates and get the information in either a data table, text file, graph or advance graph form. Current electronic users can continue to download daily files through the current Web site, but the new site has query or search capability for individual data parameters, such as soil temperature or wind speed, for example.

"Knowing how much crop water is required in real time is key to true irrigation scheduling for area producers and is what the (network) provides in a direct, user-friendly format," says Marek. He and Dana Porter, Texas extension irrigation specialist and experiment station engineer from Lubbock, will unveil the latest changes and capabilities at the Panhandle Farm and Ranch Management Symposium, Dec. 1 during the Amarillo Farm and Ranch Show.

Evapotranspiration is calculated by applying climate data, such as temperature, solar radiation, wind and relative humidity. This data is collected from different weather stations to estimate the water demand for a specific panhandle area. Some state networks use alfalfa as a reference or control crop, but the Texas High Plains network uses a well-watered tall fescue grass as a reference crop, which is more suited for the region, Marek says.

Source: Texas A&M.

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Hay Barn Web Site Helps Gulf Coast Ranchers Locate Hay
An online classified advertising site that lists hay, hay equipment and haying services for sale is offering help to Gulf Coast ranchers hard-hit by hurricanes. The Hay Barn Web site,, is offering growers in that area a free hay-wanted ad on the site. Hay producers and sellers in neighboring regions can then contact those needing hay directly.

As winter approaches, hay is becoming increasingly difficult to find in parts of the Gulf Coast. Unusually dry conditions in southern and eastern Texas this summer reduced the number of hay cuttings, further limiting the hay supply to hurricane-damaged states. According to USDA's Drought Monitor, moderate drought conditions extend from Texas through Louisiana, Mississippi and Arkansas. Hay shortages extend as far as Missouri, where state officials are waiving permit fees for hauling hay within the state through Dec. 31.

"Hay is in short supply, and quality hay is going at premium rates this fall," says Leslie Neal, owner of the Hay Barn site. "We're looking to help broaden the source region for Gulf Coast producers, bringing in hay from farther out."

For more information, visit or e-mail Neal at

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State Reports
Northern Florida has been experiencing unseasonably warm temperatures and dry weather this fall, according to Andy Burns, Larsen Farms, Alachua. Early summer was unusually wet and some producers had a difficult time getting hay put up in May and well into June. "The unseasonably warm weather this fall meant pasture was still available and hay from outside the state had been moving slowly until recently," he says. "Now there is brisk demand." The Ocala area received the first significant frost of the season last week. Burns says the quality of locally grown hay is lower than normal. He doesn't expect a lot of quality hay will be available in northern Florida, so prices may be moving higher. Fuel has been a hot topic among hay producers and customers during the last six to eight weeks, too.

Some racetracks sustained damage when Hurricane Wilma moved across southern Florida earlier this fall. Some dairies were impacted as well, Burns notes.

He works for the Florida branch of Larsen Farms, a hay operation based in Idaho. "Larsen Farms ships hay products by rail primarily from the western U.S. into the southeastern part of the country for sale to dairies and horse farms," Burns explains.

Learn more about Larsen Farms at, or call Burns at 386-755-3300.

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Iowa Auction Results
The Nov. 23 hay auction at Fort Atkinson Hay, Fort Atkinson, IA, had offerings from Kansas, Nebraska, Minnesota and many parts of Iowa. A load of small square bales sold for $230/ton. That was the top price among four loads of fourth-cutting small squares. The lowest price was $125/ton. Six loads of first-cutting small squares brought $95-115/ton, while one load of second-cutting small squares sold for $100/ton. Eight loads of third-crop small squares ranged from $85 to $165/ton.

Two loads of second-crop big square bales sold for $60 and $95/ton, while five loads of third-crop big squares ranged from $65 and $120/ton. Two loads of fourth-crop big squares sold for $60/ton.

Thirteen loads of first-cutting round bales topped at $70/ton and bottomed at $40/ton. Five loads of second-crop round bales sold for $40-70/ton, and six loads of third-crop round bales brought $65-80/ton. Five loads of fourth-crop round bales ranged from $30 to $90/ton.

Three loads of new-seeding round bales sold sold for $50-65/ton.

Eight loads of small square straw bales brought between $100 and $145/ton. One load of big square straw bales sold for $80/ton, and one load of big round straw bales sold for $60/ton.

Two loads of round-baled cornstalks sold for $40/ton.

Hay auctions are held every Wednesday at 1 p.m. central time. Contact the auction at 563-534-7513, or visit

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Hay prices are strong in Kansas, says Steve Hessman, Kansas Hay Market News, Kansas Department of Agriculture. It's very difficult to find dairy hay in the state. "I thought all of our dairies had their hay needs covered, but I recently found out that one of the state's largest dairies could use another 1,500 tons, and I don't know where it's going to find it," he says. "We have not seen the prices on dairy hay like they have on the West Coast or in Pennsylvania, but they're still good. Supreme-quality hay is in the $120-140/ton range, with premium selling for $110-120. Some lower-quality hay with 160 RFV (relative feed value) and some 150 RFV hay with a good green color have been selling for about $90/ton, with some hay selling for up to $105/ton that we would not normally think of as dairy hay."

Hessman says much of the state had a good first cutting with quite a few tons of dairy hay put up during that cutting. "Then it turned hot with some dry spells and a lot of hay was put up dry and green, but it didn't test well," he notes. "Alfalfa likes sunshine, but it doesn't like extreme heat and we had quite a bit of that this summer." As a result, not a lot of dairy hay was put up in the second, third and fourth cuttings. Unless irrigators had their fourth cutting off early, they didn't water the fifth cutting because it became too expensive to justify the cost of gas to run the wells. "We didn't have as many acres irrigated, so we didn't have as many tons produced on that last cutting as we would have had the gas price been lower," Hessman explains. "But there was a ready, waiting market for the hay. Much of the good, irrigated hay was bought right out of the field behind the baler. That was a good indicator that there was strong demand for that kind of hay."

The grinding-hay market was fairly flat for two years, until recently, Hessman reports. "Grinding hay came up about $5/ton about four weeks ago in central Kansas," he says. "I attribute that to having a few more cattle on feed and some lighter-weight cattle because the drought areas of Texas, Arkansas and Missouri weaned their calves and shipped them out when they didn't have feed for them. I think some of those calves ended up in feedyards that our southwestern Kansas grinders deliver hay to in Texas, Kansas and Oklahoma." There has been good hay movement from Kansas into the drought areas in surrounding states. Hessman expects the movement to those areas to remain fairly active all winter.

"We did have good prospects for wheat pasture, and that always encourages more cattle and calves to be bought and brought to western Kansas for grazing," Hessman continues. "When you're getting those cattle started, they eat hay, too, until they get turned out, so that helped the movement of hay." All of these factors have contributed to a good market for both grinding and stock cow hay. Three weeks ago, hay prices in southwestern Kansas jumped $10/ton in a three- to four-day period. "When markets jump that much at once, everyone takes notice," Hessman says. "The market has been active ever since as people work to make sure they have their needs covered."

Contact Hessman at 620-227-8881.

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MFA Farm Bill Forum Is Dec. 7-8
The Midwest Forage Association will host a Farm Bill Forum and Research Summit, Dec. 7-8 at the Holiday Inn Select International Airport Hotel in Bloomington, MN. The association is holding this meeting to identify farm policy issues on which the organization should focus, as well as to give producers an update on forage research. There is no charge to attend. Organizers say producer input is crucial to help create a focused message from forage producers as part of the farm bill debate.

A variety of speakers will address topics ranging from the ag appropriations process and the next farm bill, to the impact of alfalfa hay NDF digestibility on dairy cow performance and Roundup Ready alfalfa. Current forage industry research projects will be explained in presentations and via poster sessions.

Learn more about the program at, or contact the Midwest Forage Association at 651-484-3888 or

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**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 -- 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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Lora Berg, Editor, eHay Weekly,

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