Weekly: Brought to you by Hay & Forage
 Hay & Forage
 USDA Hay Prices
 A Prism Business Media Publication January 17, 2006 |  
Hay Production Dropped 5% In 2005
Top of the News Dec. 1 Hay Stocks Decline 8% New Alfalfa Seedings Increase USDA Reports Total Forage Production For 18 States Tough Times In Texas And Oklahoma
State Reports Indiana Tennessee
Events Plan For 2006 Midwest Hay Business Conference And Expo Indiana Forage Council Meeting Is Feb. 16 Calendar
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Hay Production Dropped 5% In 2005
USDA has estimated that U.S. growers harvested 151 million tons of dry hay last year, 5% less than in 2004. In its January Crop Production report, released last week, USDA put the total harvested hay acreage at 61.6 million, down less than 1% from 2004 acreage. The average yield, at 2.44 tons/acre, was down 0.11 ton.

Production of alfalfa and alfalfa mixtures totaled 75.8 million tons in 2005, up slightly from the 2004 figure. Harvested area, at 22.4 million acres, was 3% higher than in 2004. Yields averaged 3.38 tons/acre, down 0.10 ton.

While harvested hay acreage increased in 2005, it was still the second-lowest acreage since 1952. Compared to 2004, states in the northern Great Plains showed the largest increases in harvested acreage last year. Montana and North Dakota both harvested 350,000 acres more than in the previous year as a result of improved soil moisture conditions. This allowed growers to make multiple cuttings of alfalfa. Meanwhile, the Pacific Coast states all showed declines in harvested acreage, with Oregon showing the greatest decline -- 80,000 acres. Yields declined across most of the southern Great Plains and Corn Belt, as weather conditions throughout much of the growing season were less favorable than in 2004. Drought in several of these states limited the number of cuttings and reduced yields. The largest decreases in yield from 2004 occurred in Arkansas and Missouri -- 1.2 and 1.1 tons, respectively.

Production of all other hay in 2005 totaled 74.8 million tons, down 10% from the 2004 total. Area for harvest, at 39.3 million acres, was 2% below the 2004 figure. The average yield is estimated at 1.91 tons/acre, down 0.15 ton from 2004's record high yield.

Source: USDA.

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Top of the News
Dec. 1 Hay Stocks Decline 8%
Stocks of all hay stored on farms totaled 105 million tons on Dec. 1, 2005, 8% less than on that date the previous year, USDA reports. Hay disappearance from May to December totaled 73.3 million tons compared to 69.7 million tons for the same period in 2004.

Compared to Dec. 1, 2004, hay stocks decreased in most of the Corn Belt and southern Great Plains states. In many of these states, drought conditions during the summer months resulted in increased supplemental hay feeding. Meanwhile, stocks increased compared to 2004 in most of the northern Great Plains states, as above-average rainfall and warm temperatures allowed farmers to get multiple cuttings and provided good pasture and grazing conditions.

Source: USDA.

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New Alfalfa Seedings Increase
Growers seeded 3.29 million acres of alfalfa and alfalfa mixtures during 2005, 18% more than the 2.79 million acres seeded in 2004. Seeded acreage increased or was unchanged from last year in all but six states. The largest increases occurred in Wisconsin, New York and Minnesota, with increases of 150,000, 70,000 and 55,000 acres, respectively.

Source: USDA.

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USDA Reports Total Forage Production For 18 States
The 2005 total haylage and green-chop production for 18 states in USDA's forage program was 29.4 million tons, of which 21 million tons were from alfalfa and alfalfa mixtures. Wisconsin, the leading haylage and green-chop state, harvested 1.6 million acres of them in 2005, including 1.4 million acres of alfalfa and alfalfa mixtures. The total area harvested in the 18 states was 38.2 million acres, including 16.9 million acres of alfalfa and alfalfa mixtures.

The forage program measures annual production of forage crops, with an emphasis on total alfalfa production. Before 2005, only eight states were in the program. Acres, yield and production are reported for haylage and green-chop together, and for total forage production. Haylage and green-chop production is converted to 13% moisture and combined with dry hay production to derive the total forage production.

Source: USDA.

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Tough Times In Texas And Oklahoma
According to the Herald Democrat newspaper, recent grass fires across Texas and Oklahoma have compounded the misery of many farmers and ranchers dealing with the effects of one of the worst dry spells on record. The grass fires have forced some ranchers to buy hay to feed their livestock or to lease new grazing land.

Dozens of farmers and ranchers across Texas have lost property, income and livestock to the blazes that have ravaged more than 250,000 acres in northern and western Texas since late December. Besides cattle and hay, the losses included hundreds of miles of fences and dozens of barns, tractors and other equipment. Grass fires have burned more than 400,000 acres in Oklahoma since Nov. 1.

Exact financial losses are not yet available because ranchers are still assessing the damage, according to USDA. Even before the wildfires, Texas' hay crop was expected to be worth only about half as much as 2004's $800 million crop because of the drought, according to Carl Anderson, retired Texas A&M University ag economist. Last fall, before the wildfires, Texas agriculture officials estimated the drought could cost $1 billion by spring, including lost income from low hay production, higher feed costs and the selling of cows sooner and for lower prices. President Bush has issued a disaster declaration that makes federal aid available to nine Texas counties.

Source: Herald Democrat Online.

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State Reports
Hay and forage crops went into the winter in good shape, with no dry weather concerns, reports Keith Johnson, Purdue University agronomist. "The greatest fear I have right now is that extensive periods of warm weather, followed by winter conditions, may cause heaving of alfalfa tap roots, especially on less-than-well-drained sites," he says. "If we have many more of these roller coaster rides from warm to cold weather, people need to scout their fields during the late winter and very early spring to see if there is crop damage."

Johnson says cold weather in December caused snow to stay on the ground for three weeks, which is unusual in Indiana. "Stockpiling had occurred in many rotationally grazed pastures. There wasn't enough snow to prevent grazing, and some grazing is still occurring," he says. With recent warmer temperatures, cattle haven't eaten as much hay as they might have had it been colder. Even with the warm weather, there is still good demand for hay, Johnson reports.

He says it will be interesting to see how much Roundup Ready alfalfa gets planted in the Midwest in the next few years. "It will probably best fit the niche of people who have special weed problems that cannot be easily controlled with alternative means," Johnson says. "Curly dock can be a problem, particularly in the cash hay crop. The stems of that weed do not dry down as quickly as does alfalfa. So not only does it not make desirable-looking hay, many times I have seen enough moisture retention in curly dock stems that they can cause pockets of mold in hay. Examples like that may increase people's willingness to purchase Roundup Ready seed."

Johnson says Indiana hay and straw producers now have the opportunity to certify their crops as noxious weed and troublesome-plant free. "The Indiana Crop Improvement Association has taken the lead in the state to be the inspectors," he says. He notes that growers will probably be more willing to pay the necessary fees to have fields scouted and certified if customer demand for certified hay and straw increases. Horse owners, landscapers and highway construction project managers may benefit most from certified noxious weed and troublesome plant-free forages.

According to recent USDA figures, Indiana's alfalfa hay production declined 10% in 2005, to 1.29 million tons. Other hay production, at 775,000 tons, decreased 11%.

Contact Johnson at 765-494-4800 or

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It has been a relatively warm winter in most of Tennessee, says Gary Bates, University of Tennessee extension forage specialist, Knoxville. Although western Tennessee received moisture from the remnants of Hurricane Katrina, parts of the state are hungry for moisture. "People didn't get as much pasture reseeding done as they would have liked because of the dry weather, and we didn't get as much fescue growth in the fall as we are used to," Bates says. However, there seems to be enough hay to meet demand, he adds.

The hottest topic in the state's hay industry is an increased interest in growing bermudagrass for the horse hay market. "People are taking some acres out of orchardgrass or fescue in order to grow bermudagrass, and are also looking to get into the horse hay market to replace tobacco as a cash crop," Bates explains. "I'm getting more questions about producing hay for the horse market than any other hay-related topic right now."

Contact Bates at 865-974-7208.

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Plan For 2006 Midwest Hay Business Conference And Expo
Commercial hay growers can discuss the latest in innovative markets, forage testing and more at the Midwest Hay Business Conference & Expo. Sponsored by Hay & Forage Grower, it will be held March 14-15 at the Ramkota Hotel, Sioux Falls, SD.

The first day of the program will include a panel of growers who have researched and marketed their forage products into new venues. Experts will also analyze the costs and pricing to achieve a profitable hay business and offer tips for successful selling to the fast-growing horse market.

University of Wisconsin forage specialist Dan Undersander will examine forage analyses and whether they're accurate and worth the cost on March 15. Creating a successful dairy hay business using artificial drying and a unique soil fertility plan, opening new markets by changing the package, alfalfas with added value and new anti-terrorism legislation and how it affects hay growers, will also be discussed.

Registration costs $150/person and includes the two-day program, five hours of trade-show exhibits, an evening reception on day one and breakfast and lunch on day two. A second person from the same operation can attend for $125. Registration deadline is Feb. 19. For more information, or to register, call 800-722-5334 and ask for Cindy Kramer. Or visit

Early registrants may also want to make hotel reservations at 605-336-0650 and ask for discounted rooms at $69/night.

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Indiana Forage Council Meeting Is Feb. 16
The Indiana Forage Council Annual Meeting and Seminar Presentation will be held Thursday, Feb. 16, at the Cornerstone Hall in Salem. The meeting will be begin at 4 p.m., with a buffet meal to follow at 6 p.m. A producer panel and featured speaker, Cliff Schuette, Breese, IL, will follow dinner.

Schuette will speak on the topic, "Money-Making Annual Forages." Spring- and fall-calving cow herds graze on different types of forages that can grow or be stockpiled all year at Schuette Farms. Schuette will talk about how he uses endophyte-friendly tall fescue, oats, turnips, rye, red clover, pearl millet, BMR sorghum-sudangrass, annual ryegrass, corn residues and crabgrass to graze year-round. He attains year-round grazing by learning to match each forage crop to a time of the year, and utilizes a management-intensive grazing system. During the last eight years, feed costs have ranged from $58 to $150 per cow. A profit has been guaranteed every year, even with low cattle prices.

Finished cattle are marketed through Schuette's cousins' five grocery stores, thus ensuring a $50 to $100 premium, in addition to gaining carcass data and consumer feedback.

The producer panel will consist of Paul Hirt, Decatur County; Roger Dale Robinson, Orange County; and Norbert Schaefer, Jefferson County.

Attendance at the 4 p.m. annual meeting is not a requirement for participation in the rest of the event. Contact Lisa Metts to RSVP by Feb. 8, at or 765-494-4783.

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**Jan. 7-22 -- National Western Stock Show, National Western Complex, Denver. Learn more at

**Jan. 18 -- Tri-State Hay and Pasture Conference, Garret College, McHenry, MD. Call 301-334-6960 for registration information. Learn more at

**Jan. 18-19 -- Washington State Hay Growers Association Convention and Trade Show, Three Rivers Convention Center, Kennewick. Learn more at

**Jan. 19 -- Southern Maryland Hay and Pasture Conference, Isaac Walton League Outdoor Education Center, Waldorf. Call 301-475-4484 or visit

**Jan. 19-20 -- Delmarva Hay and Pasture Conference, Delaware State Fairgrounds, Harrington. Contact Richard Taylor at or 302-831-1383, or visit

**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. 21 -- Winter Grazing of Tall Fescue Pasture Walk, Wye Research and Education Center, Wye Angus Facility, Queenstown, MD. Learn more at

**Jan. 23-25 -- Silage for Dairy Farms Conference, Radisson Penn Harris Hotel, Camp Hill, PA. Call 607-255-7654 or visit

**Jan. 24 -- Central Maryland Hay and Pasture Conference, Carroll County Agricultural Center, Westminster. Contact Doug Tregoning at, or call 301-590-2809.

**Jan. 25-26 -- Heart of America Grazing Conference, Cave City, KY. Call 270-365-7541 or visit

**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. 7-9 -- Producing Cash Hay for Virginia's Equine Industry Workshops, Feb. 7-Armory in Chatham; Feb. 8-Southern Piedmont Research Station, Blackstone; Feb. 9-Tidewater Research Station, Suffolk. Registration for each will begin at 8 a.m. and the programs will end at 3:30 p.m. Early registration deadline is Jan. 27. Contact Chris Teutsch at, or call 434-0292-5331, ext. 234.

**Feb. 14-16 -- World Ag Expo, Tulare, CA. Learn more at

**Feb. 16 -- Indiana Forage Council Annual Meeting and Seminar Presentation, Cornerstone Hall, Salem. Contact Lisa Metts at or 765-494-4783.

**Feb. 22-23 -- Pennsylvania Hay and Silage Conference, Holiday Inn, Grantville. Contact Lisa Crytser at 814-865-2543.

**Feb. 23 -- Kentucky Alfalfa Conference, Lexington. Contact Garry Lacefield at 270-365-7541, ext. 202.

**Feb. 25 -- Bi-State Forage Institute: Focus on Hay, The Stratford Inn, Harvard, IL. Call 847-223-8627.

**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.

**April 21-23 -- Midwest Horse Fair, Alliant Energy Center, Madison, WI. Learn more at

**April 28-30 -- Minnesota Horse Expo, Minnesota State Fairgrounds, St. Paul. Learn more at

**Sept. 7-9 -- National Hay Association 111th Annual Convention, Snow King Resort, Jackson Hole, WY.

**Oct. 3-7 -- World Dairy Expo, Alliant Energy Center, Madison, WI. Learn more at

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Lora Berg, Editor, eHay Weekly,

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