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 Hay & Forage
 USDA Hay Prices
 A Prism Business Media Publication April 4, 2006 |  
USDA Report Predicts Fewer Hay Acres
Top of the News Manure Before Alfalfa Can Be Beneficial Read Public Farm Bill Comments CRP Sign-Up Continues Through April 14 Alfalfa Has Amazing Root Power
State Reports Iowa Hay Auction Report Texas Wyoming Correction
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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.

Source: USDA.

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Top of the News
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 well.

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 weed pressure.

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 conveyed.

The papers can be accessed at: by clicking on the Farm Bill Forums graphic.

Source: USDA.

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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 sign-up.

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 environmental benefits.

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:

Source: USDA.

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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 reports.

Source: University of Kentucky Forage News.

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State Reports
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, or call 712-476-5541.

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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 explains.

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.

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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 Missouri.

Contact Gara at 307-532-1746.

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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

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NK Brand Alfalfas deliver more quality AND more yield. Our premium alfalfas, like Genoa, Expedition and Boulder, combine high nutritional values with high yields, plus outstanding agronomics and persistence for longer, healthier stands. The result? More profit from your alfalfa acres - whether you feed it or sell it.
**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

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

**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, or visit

**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."

**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

**Sept. 12 -- Kentucky Forage And Grassland Council Field Day, Dobbs Shady Meadow Farm, Campbell County. Learn more at

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

**Nov. 21 -- Kentucky Grazing Conference, Fayette County Extension Office, Lexington. Learn more at

**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

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Comments from Readers
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Lora Berg, Editor, eHay Weekly,

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