Organic Dairy Needs More Hay
A shortage of organic hay is the biggest bottleneck
limiting the growth of organic dairies, says Justin Mauler, Aurora
Organic Dairy's associate director of farm resource development. Mauler
was a featured speaker at last week's Western Hay Business Conference
and Expo in Loveland, CO. "Our primary forage need is for organic hay,"
he told conference attendees. "We're looking to form long-term
commitments with organic hay growers." The dairy typically pays a 10-15%
premium over regular hay prices.
Aurora is one of the country's largest organic dairy companies,
operating organic dairies in Colorado and Texas totaling 7,400 cows
milking. The company is slated to open an additional 3,200-cow organic
dairy near Greeley, CO, by December 2006. The company does not produce
its own branded product. Its facilities package fat-free, 1%, 2% and
whole fluid milk, cream and butter under other organic brand names. "We
are a vertically integrated company, cow-to-carton," says Mauler.
"Quality feed is the biggest driver in our scheme."
The dairy is typically looking for premium alfalfa with 170+ relative
feed value. "We prefer 4 x 4 bales, but can also accept 3 x 4," Mauler
states. The company also buys alfalfa haylage and small grain silage,
typically from producers within 10-15 miles of each dairy.
Organic food products captured $12.4 billion of the $540 billion grocery
industry, according to recent reports. The organic dairy category is
among the fastest-growing categories, accounting for around 10% of the
organic food market. Mauler says the key drivers behind the growth of
the organic food market include food safety and health concerns, taste
and environmental issues. He says the U.S. organic food industry is
still in its infancy as more and more mainstream retail stores devote
increased floor space to organic products. "As an industry, we are
having trouble keeping up with the demand for organic milk right now."
Mauler works with organic hay growers in and around Colorado to help
answer questions about converting to organic hay production. His goal is
to have a number of organic hay producers he can count on to help meet
the feed needs of each Aurora Organic Dairy.
In order to earn an organic certificate from a USDA certifying agency,
no insecticide, herbicide or synthetic fertilizer can be applied to a
field for at least three years. Components of a successful organic plan
include crop rotation, sustainability and good record-keeping, Mauler
Contact Mauler at 720-564-6296, ext. 470, or email@example.com.
Visit the company Web site at www.auroraorganic.com.
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Western Hay Business Conference And Expo Program
Several outstanding hay producers from the western U.S.
participated in last week's Western Hay Business Conference and Expo in
Loveland, CO. Attendees expressed interest in conference sessions
dealing with getting the most alfalfa out of the least irrigation water,
designing alfalfas for dairy rations and selling to the fast-growing
horse market. Don Leonard and Don Kurtz, Colorado hay producers, shared
real-world horse-hay marketing and production tips.
Updates on relative forage quality (RFQ) vs. relative feed value (RFV)
were combined with tips about how to compare forage test results between
labs. Marketing sessions showed how U.S. hay is breaking into Vietnamese
markets. Colorado grower Jared Anderson shared his experiences in
building a hay market around bagged silage. Larry Matlack, Burrton, KS,
told conference attendees about how he makes high-quality baleage.
A hay-industry-specific trade show gave producers opportunities to spend
time, one-on-one, with company representatives. Attendees took advantage
of the chance to network and learn how others in their industry work to
serve growing hay markets throughout the West.
The next Hay Business Conference and Expo will be held March 14-15 at
the Ramkota Hotel, Sioux Falls, SD.
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Demand for dairy-quality hay is growing as more dairies
relocate to Colorado and surrounding states, says Bruce Bosley, Logan
and Morgan County extension cropping systems agent. "Two large
California dairies have relocated to Morgan County within the last
year," he says. "The potential for hay is good. There are more and more
dairies in eastern Colorado." Bosley says water issues are one of the
biggest challenges faced by his state's hay producers. "We may continue
to see some changes in water allocation in the state," he says.
Colorado hay growers sell $250 million worth of alfalfa per year,
according to Norm Dalsted, Colorado State University extension
economist. He told Western Hay Business Conference and Expo attendees
that, between 1995 and 2004, there was only one year in which alfalfa
hay averaged below $90/ton in the state. He urged producers to choose a
target market and grow the type of hay the market is seeking. "Sometimes
the dairy market is somewhat overlooked," he notes. "In addition to
expanding Colorado dairies, there has been dairy expansion going on in
Kansas. There is a 14,000-cow dairy going in near Garden City, KS, for
example." Dalsted says Kansas dairies provide a good market for Colorado
Contact Bosley at 970-522-3200; Dalsted at 970-491-5627.
Southern Idaho is expecting to see between 40,000 and
60,000 more dairy cows in the near future. That's as new dairies come
into the state and some expansion takes place, says Glenn Shewmaker,
University of Idaho extension forage specialist, Twin Falls. "There's
never enough dairy-quality hay," he notes. "Our prices seem to follow
California prices, and right now California hay is selling for up to
$200/ton. There is adequate feeder hay available in the area." Idaho
received very good spring moisture this year, which helped grass hay and
grass hay mixtures thrive. "It rained enough to delay first cutting and
then a substantial amount of hay got rained on," Shewmaker says. "The
big plus was that rain delayed the need to put on irrigation water. Then
we had very little summer rain."
Reservoirs and lakes in the area are still at low levels. And that
brings questions about irrigation water and potential shortages in Idaho
and throughout the West, Shewmaker says. He will be conducting some
irrigation studies and is working on a new irrigation guide that will
become available within the next year. "Alfalfa is a good crop from an
environmental standpoint, but it does use a lot of water," he notes.
"There are some management steps people can take to help control the
amount of water they are using."
Western forage producers can pick up a number of production and
marketing tips from the newly revised Idaho Forage Handbook. The
handbook features user-friendly illustrations, tables and graphs, in
addition to new chapters on harvest management, equipment, forage
testing and hay storage, just to name a few. It's available from the
University of Idaho for $10 plus postage. Learn more about the handbook
Contact Shewmaker at 208-736-3608.
It was a good year for hay production in western
Nebraska, reports Chris Ray, Ray Ranch, Chappell. "We produced a lot of
dairy hay and had good moisture," he says. Ray expects dairy hay to be
easy to sell this winter.
Ray attended the Western Hay Business Conference and Expo last week in
Loveland, CO. "I came to the meeting to find out more about new
markets," he says. He's president of the Nebraska Alfalfa Marketing
Association (NAMA). He says NAMA is struggling with the issue of
distillers' grain claiming a share of the alfalfa market while receiving
subsidies that create an unfair advantage.
Demand for hay is excellent in Ray's area. He contracts most of his hay
to dairy clients in the Midwest, especially Illinois and Indiana. He
says dairy hay has been selling for around $100/ton in his area. "We are
in a good location," he explains. "Trucks take steel to Denver and then
are available to backhaul hay. He also sells some hay to feedlots, in
addition to operating his own feedlot. "Some feedlot nutritionists need
to learn about the pros and cons of replacing hay with distiller's grain
in feedlot rations," Ray says. "There is a lot of hay in mid-Nebraska
that works well in feedlot rations and there would not necessarily be a
market for some of that hay if it were not fed to feedlot cattle."
Ray tests all of his hay. "We test every 100 bales as a lot and mark
where it came from," he reports. "We use one lab for our testing."
Contact Ray at 308-874-4350.
Horse hay demand has been strong lately in Wyoming,
according to Bill Reed, Alcova Hay, LCC, Alcova. "I'm completely out of
grass-alfalfa hay," he says. Reed has been getting $125/ton for his
small square bales of grass hay, and $100/ton for alfalfa and
alfalfa-grass mixtures in mid-size bales. In addition to horse hay, Reed
sells alfalfa to Wisconsin dairies. He traveled to the World Dairy Expo
in Madison, WI, the past two years to help promote Wyoming hay in a tent
sponsored by the Wyoming Business Council. "It has paid me to go to
World Dairy Expo," he comments. "I found several new dairy hay customers
in Wisconsin." He says freight costs for shipping hay to Wisconsin have
really gone up this fall, but customers are still interested in getting
Reed produces 1,500 tons of hay per year on 300 acres, in addition to
custom harvesting 1,000 acres. Contact Reed at 307-267-4677.
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Virginia's Horse Industry Is Focus Of Cash Hay
"Producing Cash Hay for Virginia's Equine Industry" is
the theme of three one-day workshops to be held Feb. 7, 8 and 9 and
sponsored by Virginia Cooperative Extension and the Virginia Forage and
Nationally recognized speakers will talk about the equine hay market as
well as hay production and marketing fundamentals that help reduce risks
when transitioning to an alternative crop and marketing system. The
workshops will be held Feb. 7 at the Armory in Chatham; Feb. 8 at the
Southern Piedmont Research Station in Blackstone; and Feb. 9 at
Tidewater Research Station in Suffolk. Registration for each will begin
at 8 a.m. and the programs will end at 3:30 p.m.
Speakers will address establishing forages, fertility and pest
management, cutting and curing management, machinery management and
costs, marketing, and hay transportation on public roads.
Speakers include: Chris Teutsch, forage extension specialist at the
Southern Piedmont Agricultural Research and Extension Center; Wade
Thomason, Virginia Tech extension specialist; Mike Galbraith, forage
quality/preservation specialist with Cargill Animal Nutrition; Scott
Hagood, Virginia Tech weed extension specialist; Bobby Grisso, Virginia
Tech ag engineer; Gordon Groover, Virginia Tech extension economist; and
Tom Keene, a University of Kentucky hay marketing specialist.
Early registration cost is $5 for Virginia Forage and Grassland Council
members and $30 for non-members. Early registration deadline is Jan. 27.
Thereafter, registration cost will be $15 for members and $40 for
For more information, contact Chris Teutsch at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 434-0292-5331,
**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 email@example.com.
**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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
**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
**Jan. 19-20 -- Southwest Hay Conference & Trade Show, Ruidoso
Convention Center, Ruidoso, NM. Learn more at email@example.com, or call 505-626-5677 or
**Jan. 25-26 -- Heart of America Grazing Conference, Cave City,
KY. Call 270-365-7541, or visit www.uky.edu/ag/forage.
**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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