USDA Report Predicts Fewer Hay Acres
U.S. hay producers expect to harvest 61.5 million acres
of all hay in 2006, according to the USDA Prospective Plantings report,
released late last week. The expected hay acreage is down fractionally
from the 61.6 million acres harvested last year. Harvested acres are
expected to decline or remain unchanged from last year throughout the
Great Plains and adjacent areas of the Corn Belt. Oklahoma, where hay
production is expected to increase by 180,000 acres, is the one
exception. Wildfires and drought last fall and winter limited available
pasture and increased supplemental feeding in that state. USDA says low
hay supplies are expected to push Oklahoma farmers to harvest more hay
acres this year.
The biggest reductions are forecast for North Dakota and Texas, where
acreage is expected to drop by 430,000 and 350,000 acres, respectively.
Drought has been so severe in Texas that farmers have low expectations
about the amount of hay ground they will be able to harvest this year,
despite the current low hay supplies in the state.
Soybean growers intend to plant 76.9 million acres in 2006, up 7% from
last year's figure. If realized, it would be the largest soybean acreage
on record. Conversely, corn acreage is expected to decline by 5%, to 78
million acres. It would be the lowest corn acreage since 2001, when 75.7
million acres were planted. The expected total wheat acreage -- 57.1
million -- would be down slightly from the 2005 figure and the lowest
acreage since 1972.
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Manure Before Alfalfa Can Be Beneficial
If you have a source of manure and are considering
where it might best be applied this spring, one good choice would be a
field about to be seeded to alfalfa, says Bruce Anderson, University of
Nebraska extension forage specialist. While this recommendation may seem
counter-productive since alfalfa is not likely to benefit from the
manure's nitrogen, Anderson says it's important to remember that manure
also is rich in phosphorus, potassium, sulfur and many micronutrients
that alfalfa needs in large quantities.
Research shows that applying as much as 12,000 gallons of liquid manure
or 50 tons of dry manure per acre before planting alfalfa can boost
yield more than commercial fertilizers at the same nutrient levels. And
yield increases occur on both low- and high-fertility soils, while only
low-fertility soils responded to commercial fertilizer. Other factors
like improved soil tilth, increased soil microbial activity and early
nitrogen availability may be reasons manure increased alfalfa yield so
Anderson urges producers to test the soil and the manure to determine
how much manure to apply. Mix manure into the soil using tillage, making
sure to prepare a firm seedbed so new alfalfa seedlings will emerge
rapidly and vigorously. He reminds producers to carefully plan a weed
control program because manure can stimulate weed seedlings. Proper
timing of seeding, firm seedbeds and herbicides or clipping can control
Source: University of Nebraska Crop Watch Newsletter.
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Read Public Farm Bill Comments
Agriculture Secretary Mike Johanns announced last week
that USDA has completed a summary of the public comments submitted
during the agency's Farm Bill Forum listening sessions. The summaries
will serve as a basis for USDA policy review and analysis in preparation
for the 2007 Farm Bill.
"The best way to understand the challenges and opportunities in
agriculture is to listen to the people whose lives are affected by the
policies we enact," says Johanns.
USDA personnel have spent the past several months categorizing and
summarizing the comments received. The 41 summary papers are the product
of this work. The topics range from animal identification and loan
deficiency payments to disaster assistance and country-of-origin
labeling. Each paper contains three sections: factual background,
general opinions expressed, and specific, detailed suggestions that were
The papers can be accessed at: www.usda.gov by clicking on the Farm Bill Forums
CRP Sign-Up Continues Through April 14
The general sign-up period for the Conservation Reserve
Program (CRP) began on Monday, March 27, and continues through Friday,
April 14, according to USDA.
"I strongly encourage all eligible farmers to continue improving our
soil, water, air and wildlife habitat resources by applying for the CRP
at local Farm Service Agency (FSA) offices," comments Agriculture
Secretary Mike Johanns.
As in previous general sign-ups, FSA will evaluate eligible CRP offers
utilizing the Environmental Benefits Index (EBI). Since the EBI cutoff
used in previous sign-ups may be different for this sign-up, those who
met previous EBI thresholds are not guaranteed a contract under this
During the last CRP general sign-up, held Aug. 30 to Sept. 24, 2004,
enrollment offers were highly competitive. Of the 1.7 million acres
offered, FSA selected 1.2 million acres that offered the greatest
Offers accepted in this sign-up will be effective Oct. 1, 2006. More
information about the sign-ups is available at local FSA offices and on
FSA's Web site at: www.fsa.usda.gov/dafp/cepd/crpinfo.htm
Alfalfa Has Amazing Root Power
The root-penetrating power of alfalfa is equaled only
by the desert sagebrush of the Western plains, says Garry Lacefield,
University of Kentucky forage specialist. Under favorable soil and
climate conditions, roots will penetrate to a depth of 5' in six months,
Lacefield wrote in his Ph.D. thesis. Many instances are recorded in
which roots have been noted with a length and penetration exceeding 60'.
In the early 1900s, a USDA scientist observed alfalfa rooting depth
while making a survey of a mining tunnel in Nevada. The tunnel was
shattered and seamed, and water was coming through crevices in its roof
. Plant roots were coming out of the same crevices. The roots belonged
to alfalfa plants growing from an old field 129' above the tunnel. While
extreme examples of alfalfa root penetration are uncommon in literature,
penetration of active roots to a depth of 4-12' are common, Lacefield
Source: University of Kentucky Forage News.
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Iowa Hay Auction Report
At the March 30 Rock Valley Hay Auction, 62 loads were
sold, including two loads of alfalfa in small square bales.
Premium-quality alfalfa in small squares brought $130/ton; good-quality,
$90/ton. Thirteen loads of large square bales of alfalfa and 18 loads of
round alfalfa bales were sold. In large squares, premium-quality alfalfa
brought $97.50-117.50/ton; good quality, $67.50-75/ton; and fair,
$50/ton. Premium large round bales brought $97.50/ton, while good
quality sold for $72.50-82.50/ton. One load of premium alfalfa mix small
square bales sold for $115/ton. Good alfalfa mix hay in large squares
sold for $67.50/ton; fair quality, for $57.50/ton. Five loads of good
alfalfa mix hay in round bales ranged from $60 to $75/ton.
One load of premium-quality small square bales of grass hay sold for
$115/ton. Four loads of good grass hay in large square bales brought
$65-90/ton. Ten loads of round grass hay bales were sold, with
good-quality hay bringing $60-70/ton; fair hay, $57.50/ton.
One load of small square straw bales sold for $3.20/bale. Four loads of
round straw bales brought $18-29/bale and $52.50/ton.
Rock Valley Hay Auction sales are held every Thursday at 12:30 p.m.,
Central Time, with Monday auctions held at 12:30 p.m. through April.
Visit www.rockvalleyhay.com, or call 712-476-5541.
The drought has taken a big toll on much of Texas,
reports Elizabeth Britten, Britten Farm, Bryan. Britten Farm is located
in central Texas, and typically serves customers in the equine pleasure
market within a 30-mile radius of the operation. However, the severe
drought has brought calls from customers seeking hay from all over Texas
during the past year. In addition to servicing the regular customers,
Britten says she took in many new clients who couldn't find other
sources of hay. She spent much of the winter scouring the U.S. for
quality hay to fill orders. "We brought hay in from 10 states," she
reports. "I've never seen anything like this." Trucks were sometimes
hard to come by, and she had to wait two to three weeks for hay to
arrive in some cases. She says fuel prices have been an added burden.
"With the increase in fuel prices during the past few weeks, trucking
companies are saying they need to add a 5% surcharge," she
Britten says quality coastal bermudagrass hay has been particularly hard
to find. "I just got an email from a source who says coastal
bermudagrass hay is selling for $10 per square bale in Houston," she
states. "We were selling small square bales of coastal bermudagrass for
$5/bale in the barn plus delivery costs until we ran out of it in
January." Since then, she has been supplying customers with the
best-quality alfalfa, timothy and brome hay she could find. Elizabeth
and her husband, Randy, grow top-quality bermudagrass. "We were only
able to produce about 50% of what we normally grow last year because of
the drought," she says.
She says the extremely dry conditions meant fire extinguishers were
essential while cutting the hay. "Any spark during cutting could ignite
a serious fire, so we had to be extra alert," she notes. Although the
drought is far from broken, Britten says around 4" of rain fell in the
past two weeks. More rain is needed, but a burning ban has been lifted
in the immediate area. "We don't know what type of damage the root
systems will have sustained from the long dry period, but we are hoping
we can make our first cut of coastal bermudagrass by around the first
week in June," Britten says.
The Texas Cooperative Extension Service reports that some moisture fell
in the Texas Panhandle, but more is needed. Weevil, cowpea aphid and pea
aphid infestations are reported in alfalfa. Rangeland conditions are
rated poor to very poor in that area. Measurable rainfall continues to
fall in southeastern Texas and is helping with preparation for hay
production. Pasture conditions are poor overall in that area. Forage
availability is reported below-average in southwestern Texas. The
coastal bend area is still in a severe drought situation.
Contact Britten Farm at 979-822-0543.
Producers from Texas are coming to Wyoming and snapping
up any surplus beef cow hay, reports Ervin Gara, Torrington. "There
isn't much hay around," he says. "Almost everyone is out of dairy hay,
and Texans are taking the beef cow hay." Wyoming was dry the last three
years, but it seems the drought is finally coming to an end. "We got
around 30" of precipitation last month," Gara notes. He grows 3,000
acres of hay, primarily targeting the dairy market, and also runs a
300-head cow-calf herd. He ships hay to dairies in Colorado, Iowa and
Contact Gara at 307-532-1746.
The "Ag Weather Site Is User-Friendy" story in last
week's eHay Weekly included a Web site address with a period where it
shouldn't have been. The correct address for the University of
Kentucky's weather site is wwwagwx.ca.uky.edu.
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**April 19-20 -- 2006 Mid-South Ruminant Nutrition
Conference, Arlington Hilton at Dallas-Fort Worth International
Airport. Sponsored by Texas A&M University Extension Service and the
Texas Animal Nutrition Council. Contact Ellen Jordan at 972-952-9201 or
**April 21-23 -- Midwest Horse Fair, Alliant Energy Center,
Madison, WI. Learn more at www.midwesthorsefair.com.
**April 28-30 -- Minnesota Horse Expo, Minnesota State
Fairgrounds, St. Paul. Learn more at www.mnhorseexpo.org.
**May 4 -- Beef Cattle and Forage Crops Field Day, Kansas State
University, Southeast Agricultural Research Center, Mound Valley, KS.
Contact Lyle Lomas at 620-421-4826, ext. 12, or email@example.com, or visit www.oznet.ksu.edu/rc_serec/events.htm.
**May 25 -- University of Florida Corn Silage and Forage Field
Day, Plant Science Unit, Citra, FL. Contact Jerry Wasdin at
352-392-1120 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or
visit www.animal.ufl.edu. Under "Dairy Cattle," click on
"Corn Silage Field Day."
**June 14-15 -- 4-State Dairy Nutrition and Management
Conference, Grand River Center, Dubuque, IA. Call Dave Fischer,
618-692-9434 or Leo Timms, 515-294-4522.
**Sept. 7-9 -- National Hay Association 111th Annual Convention,
Snow King Resort, Jackson Hole, WY. Call 800-707-0014 or visit www.nationalhay.org.
**Sept. 12 -- Kentucky Forage And Grassland Council Field Day,
Dobbs Shady Meadow Farm, Campbell County. Learn more at www.uky.edu/Ag/Forage.
**Oct. 3-7 -- World Dairy Expo, Alliant Energy Center, Madison,
WI. Learn more at www.worlddairyexpo.com.
**Nov. 21 -- Kentucky Grazing Conference, Fayette County
Extension Office, Lexington. Learn more at www.uky.edu/Ag/Forage.
**Jan. 24-25, 2007 -- Heart of America Grazing Conference,
Holiday Inn, Mount Vernon, IL.
**Feb. 27, 2007 -- Kentucky Alfalfa Conference, Cave City
Convention Center. Learn more at www.uky.edu/Ag/Forage.
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