Weekly: Brought to you by Hay & Forage
 Hay & Forage
 USDA Hay Prices
 A Prism Business Media Publication February 21, 2006 |  
Mild Winter Could Mean Problems For Midwestern Hay Producers
Top of the News Keep Costs In Perspective When Targeting Specific Markets Hay Conference Offers Two-For-One-Deal Lawsuit Challenges Government Approval Of RR Alfalfa
State Reports Minnesota Auction Report New Mexico South Carolina
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Mild Winter Could Mean Problems For Midwestern Hay Producers
Temperatures that reached 50 degrees in southern Wisconsin and northern Indiana and Iowa during January have caused a potentially dangerous break in dormancy in some alfalfa fields. Alfalfa grew up to 6" in January in some areas, reports Dan Undersander, University of Wisconsin forage agronomist. "We have never seen up to 6" of growth in January and I don't know what that will do," he says. "I'm not concerned about areas that had less than 2" of growth. The new varieties with increased winterhardiness can tolerate breaking dormancy and freezing back once or twice if the plant was healthy going into winter."

Recent cold weather combined with lack of snow across central Wisconsin and parts of Minnesota could lead to hayfield damage. Undersander says some areas in southern Minnesota along the Iowa border have had enough snow cover to protect plants against the most recent cold snap.

Producers should start looking for damage around April 10, assuming snow is gone. Undersander suggests digging a few plants to see if the top 6" of the taproot are turgid, or swollen, and white. If so, the plant is alive at that point. He says producers should continue monitoring fields until spring growth is about 6" tall.

Learn more about winterkill damage at the University of Wisconsin Forage Web site at Contact Undersander at 608-263-5070 or

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Top of the News
Keep Costs In Perspective When Targeting Specific Markets
What is the most economically optimal number of cuttings a hay producer needs to make in order to maximize profit? Can you make enough money producing premium-quality hay to justify the added expense? These are just two of the questions South Dakota State University extension ag economist Matthew Diersen will explore during Hay & Forage Grower's Midwest Hay Business Conference and Expo, March 14-15 in Sioux Falls, SD.

"If you're producing corn, it's easy to plan to be the low-cost corn producer by minimizing your cost per bushel," Diersen explains. "Or if you're a luxury goods producer and you're making mink coats or yachts, you're going to shoot for having everything be top of the line. If you're a hay producer, you may be able to do that, too. What is the cost of always shooting for the top, in terms of highest end of the dairy market or highest end of the horse market? You will likely have a higher unit cost of production than a producer who is trying to get the most tonnage."

Diersen will try to quantify the tradeoffs between producing a quality product while still keeping production costs in line. "You want to have the mindset of matching your cost to the type of market you are targeting, while not letting costs get out of line for the sake of being in one market," he states.

His presentation will begin at 3 p.m., March 14. The conference will be held at the Ramkota Hotel in Sioux Falls. Learn more by visiting, or call 800-722-5334 and ask for Cindy Kramer.

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Hay Conference Offers Two-For-One-Deal
Register for the Midwest Hay Business Conference & Expo before March 1 and bring another person along at no additional cost. Registration and payment must be received by March 1 to qualify for this special offer. Payment is fully refundable if cancellation is received prior to March 14, the start of the conference.

Call 800-722-5334 and ask for Cindy Kramer for more details.

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Lawsuit Challenges Government Approval Of RR Alfalfa
A lawsuit was filed last week in federal court in the northern district of California challenging USDA with inadequate review of Roundup Ready alfalfa. Those bringing the lawsuit are asking the court to reverse the approval of genetically modified alfalfa, specifically Monsanto's Roundup Ready alfalfa, and want USDA to conduct an extensive study on its potential effect on the environment.

The suit calls USDA's decision to deregulate the alfalfa a threat to the livelihood of farmers and a risk to the environment. It contends that the release of genetically modified alfalfa will ultimately prevent farmers from growing conventional and organic varieties and will endanger export markets.

The Center for Food Safety filed the lawsuit on behalf of itself, the Western Organization of Resource Councils, Dakota Resource Council, the National Family Farm Coalition, Cornucopia Institute, Sierra Club, Beyond Pesticides and two individual alfalfa seed producers.

"As a producer of organic alfalfa seed and hay, there will be absolutely no way I will be able to protect my crop from contamination," says Blaine Schmaltz, a Rugby, ND, farmer and member of the Dakota Resource Council. "I market my organic seed and hay to organic dairies and livestock growers. Currently I do not test my alfalfa, but with the introduction of genetically modified alfalfa, these products will have to be tested at both ends, adding barriers and expense." Schmaltz also exports seeds for organic sprouting under strict, no-genetic-modifying regulations, and says that business may cease.

The lawsuit also contends that USDA did not address the potential impacts related to the increased use of Roundup on alfalfa, and did not address issues related to wild relatives of alfalfa. USDA approved the release of Roundup Ready alfalfa in June 2005.

Source: Western Organization of Resource Councils (WORC). Contact WORC at 406-252-9672.

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State Reports
Minnesota Auction Report
The Houston County Forage Council Quality-Tested Hay Sale was held Feb. 10 in Caledonia, MN. Small square bales of 162 relative feed value (RFV), hay sold for $95/ton, while 130-144 RFV small squares ranged from $87.50 to $105/ton. In large square bales, 144- to 161-RFV hay brought $80-90/ton. Large round bales testing 129-164 RFV ranged from $50 to $85/ton. Hay testing between 100 and 125 RFV averaged $68.75/ton, while $52.50 was the average price for hay testing under 100 RFV.

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New Mexico
New Mexico alfalfa producers are considering creating a state alfalfa commodity commission, says Doug Whitney, a Roswell grower. Growers who choose to take part would pay an assessment of no more than $1 per acre each year in order to support the costs associated with hiring a person to work with legislative issues relating to alfalfa, according to reports in the El Defensor Chieftain newspaper. An elected board of directors would oversee the commission. Only those who grow more than 25 acres of alfalfa would pay a fee, but participation would remain voluntary.

The process needs approval from New Mexico's alfalfa growers, and a meeting is scheduled for Thursday, Feb. 23, at the Socorro County Fairgrounds to discuss the proposal. The proposal started when a group of alfalfa growers turned in a petition to the state's secretary of agriculture. The petition listed reasons for establishing a commission and carried 25 signatures. The New Mexico Department of Agriculture will conduct a series of hearings to help determine the feasibility of the proposed commission.

Contact Whitney at 505-622-8080.

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South Carolina
Extremely warm weather has slowed hay sales this winter and prices have stayed about the same, reports Ronald Adams, owner of East South Carolina Hay Distribution, Camden. "We had a little cold snap in December; otherwise it has been a very mild winter," Adams states. He says much of the East Coast produced good hay in 2005, which has also contributed to less demand for hay. Adams ships hay in from other areas and says freight rates have been a challenge. Most of his customers are in the horse market.

Contact Adams at 803-432-5141.

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**Feb. 21- 22 -- Central Plains Irrigation Conference, Comfort Inn, Colby, KS. Learn more at

**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 4 -- Grass-Finished Meats Seminar, Bloomsburg Fairgrounds, Bloomsburg, PA. Contact Kris Ribble at 570-784-4401, ext. 111, or Dave Hartman at 570-784-6660, ext. 12. Sponsored by Penn State Cooperative Extension and Project Grass Northeast.

**March 9 -- Michigan Alfalfa Technology Conference, Lincoln Room, Kellogg Center, East Lansing. Visit (click on "Workshops"), or contact Richard Leep at 269-506-6196 or

**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. Visit

**March 22-23 -- Manitoba Forage Symposium, MacDon Product Showcase Building, Winnipeg, Manitoba. Call the Manitoba Forage Council at 204-322-5427, or visit

**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

**May 25 -- University of Florida Corn Silage And Forage Field Day, Plant Science Unit, Citra, FL. Contact Jerry Wasdin at 352-392-1120 or, or visit Under "Dairy Cattle," click on "Corn Silage Field Day."

**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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