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 USDA Hay Prices
 A Prism Business Media Publication April 25, 2006 |  
Milk Production Increases May Lower Prices
Top of the News California Newsletter Informs Growers Harvest Infected Alfalfa Early
Insect Update Illinois Kentucky Missouri Nebraska Ohio
State Reports Illinois Montana Iowa Auction Report
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Letters To The Editor Send Questions & Comments To...

This Week's USDA Hay Prices by State

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Milk Production Increases May Lower Prices
Dairy hay customers could be tightening their belts in coming months. According to Red River Farm Network, milk production continues to rocket higher, prompting some speculation that lower milk prices are on the way. USDA reports U.S. milk production was up 5.5% in March, the second straight month with production increasing by more than 5%. Minnesota milk production climbed 2.8%; Wisconsin, 4.5%; California, more than 6%; and New Mexico enjoyed a 15% bump. Idaho milk production was nearly 8% higher than it was the previous March.

There has been an economic incentive to increase production, says Ken Bailey, Penn State extension dairy specialist. Because cows are milking well and producing calves worth $500 each, dairymen are retaining cows, which lowered slaughter numbers. With more milk production per cow and more cows, Bailey predicts milk prices will decrease to discourage further expansion of the milk supply.

Lower milk prices will put downward pressure on the hay market in 2006, agreed Seth Hoyt, senior ag economist with the National Agricultural Statistics Service, Sacramento, CA, as reported in the California Forage Update newsletter. Yet poor spring growing and harvesting conditions in California may put upward pressure on dairy hay prices in his area, he added.

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California Newsletter Informs Growers
A new email publication has been created to help growers and forage industry stakeholders stay informed about forage crops within California and neighboring regions. The California Forage Update is a new partnership project that combines the expertise of growers, industry members, and the University of California Cooperative Extension Service.

The newsletter offers brief reports on subjects such as planting intentions, the weather, forage research, insect updates and meeting notices. Learn more by contacting Aaron Keiss, executive director of the California Alfalfa and Forage Association, at or Dan Putnam, California alfalfa and forage extension specialist, at To subscribe to the e-newletter, send an email that includes your name and email address to Crystal Repass at

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Harvest Infected Alfalfa Early
Scout alfalfa for leaf spots and blight, then be prepared to harvest fields before much defoliation occurs. That's the recommendation of Paul Vincelli, University of Kentucky extension plant pathologist. Heavily spotted leaves are less effective at photosynthesis, which can result in reduced plant growth. Or leaves often drop to the ground, causing reduced forage yield and quality. Many leaf-infecting fungi and bacteria also infect alfalfa stems, prevent water flow and cause sudden wilting and desiccation.

Lepto leaf spot, spring black stem, Stemphylium leaf spot, and summer black stem are common alfalfa diseases that cause leaf spotting. Anthracnose, Rhizoctonia stem canker, Sclerotinia crown and stem rot, and spring black stem cause wilting and blighting of shoots. All alfalfa varieties are more or less susceptible to these foliar diseases, Vincelli notes.

If significant disease activity is present, cut sometime between early bud and first flower. Cutting captures the yield from infected leaves before they defoliate, reduces the buildup of infectious residue on the ground and protects future cuttings. It also exposes the crowns to the sun and wind, reducing the risk of crown infections from spring black stem. Cut alfalfa when it is ready; don't wait for 3-4 days of sunny, dry conditions. The more mature the plant gets, the lower its quality. Thus, waiting for dry weather can cost as much quality loss as can rain damage.

Source: Kentucky Pest News.

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Insect Update
Alfalfa weevil larvae numbers are starting to increase, particularly in the southern half of Illinois, according to the University of Illinois Integrated Pest Management Bulletin. No reports of significant feeding have been made.

Cowpea aphids and pea aphids are also turning up in the southern part of the state, says Kevin Black, Growmark. Pea aphids, which prefer cool, dry weather and rarely cause economic injury, show up in early spring, as alfalfa is becoming established and around first cutting. Predators and fungal pathogens will keep populations low, especially as temperatures increase. Black reports that while he found significant numbers of pea aphids in one alfalfa field, a nearby field had fungal pathogens actively working on the aphids. Given the recent warm weather and rain, it is uncertain how the pea aphid populations will respond.

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Moderate to heavy aphid infestations may have caused extensive stand loss to several orchardgrass plantings in parts of Kentucky, says Lee Townsend, University of Kentucky entomologist. Adair and Pulaski county fields show extensive brown spots with dead grass, and surviving grass has colonies of light green aphids. Infested leaves were covered with oval yellow lesions and looked similar to plants fed upon by greenbugs.

Armyworm larvae have been reported feeding within the state, too.

Source: Kentucky Pest News.

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During the past three weeks, high numbers of true armyworm moths have been captured in Kentucky and Arkansas, reports Wayne Bailey, University of Missouri entomologist. Large numbers of moths have been observed in southwestern Missouri, too -- transported in by storms and high winds from more southern regions of the U.S., he explains.

Although no armyworm damage has been reported in Missouri at this time, producers of tall fescue seed, tall fescue pastures, and wheat should scout for armyworm larvae or foliar damage to host crops. For identification and other information on true armyworms, visit:

Source: University of Missouri Integrated Pest and Crop Management Newsletter.

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Army cutworms are the first pests usually reported in Nebraska crops, says Keith Jarvi, University of Nebraska entomologist. In years when they have been prevalent, the cutworms delayed initial spring green-up of the state's alfalfa. The moths migrate from the Rocky Mountains, where they spend the summer, then lay eggs in alfalfa and wheat in fall. This year's mild winter may have helped overwintering larvae survive. Lack of green-up could very well mean an insect problem, Jarvi says. Wheat fields should also be scouted for army cutworms.

Stand loss is rare in established alfalfa fields, but the delay in green-up may reduce first cutting yields if cutworms are numerous. Consider treating in established fields if four or more cutworms per square foot are found. In fields less than a year old, food reserves in roots are limited and feeding may kill individual plants. Consider treatment if two or more cutworms are found per square foot in newly seeded alfalfa.

Many insecticides are labeled for control of army cutworm, including many new generic products. For more information, visit:

Source: Nebraska Crop Watch Newsletter.

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Southern Ohio has warmed up enough for alfalfa weevil feeding to become more prevalent, says Ron Hammond, Ohio State University research entomologist. Growers in central and northern Ohio should scout fields over the next couple of weeks.

"Alfalfa weevil feeding is tied to temperatures," Hammond says. "The need for scouting is especially true in southern counties, where heat unit accumulation has reached the 300 heat units needed for egg hatch and beginning feeding. Remember that fields that have a south-facing slope tend to warm up sooner and need to be checked for weevil earlier."

Source: Ohio State University.

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State Reports
Fields are looking good in parts of Illinois, and Ron Tombaugh of Dart Hay Service, Streator, expects to start cutting hay in about three weeks. He says most of last year's crop has been moved. Quite a bit of corn has been planted in the area. A 5 1/2" rain east of Streator last week left some standing water. "About 4" of that rainfall came down in 30 minutes, so there was a lot of flooding," Tombaugh reports.

The wheat is looking good, thanks to good moisture and temperatures above freezing. "The hay and straw crops both look good at this point," Tombaugh states. The moisture is welcome after dry conditions during 2005 made for a frustrating production year. "We had about half of our normal crop during 2005," Tombaugh reports. "We got somewhere between 2.5 and 2.7 tons per acre, so we outsourced a lot of hay and straw from other locations to satisfy our customers.

"In December, it looked like it was going to be a tremendous hay year, but then warmer temperatures came in January and demand cooled off," he continues. "Fuel prices went up and consumption and hay demand went down because of the warmer temperatures from January through April. What effect the fuel prices are going to have on this new crop is yet to be told."

Tombaugh raises nearly 500 acres of hay and 400 acres of wheat as well as 135 acres each of corn and soybeans. He produces, sells and trucks hay within Illinois and to Wisconsin, Ohio, Iowa, Tennessee and Kentucky. He sells 3 x 3 x 8' bales to Ohio and Kentucky dairies, and provides an alfalfa-orchardgrass mix to Kentucky horse owners.

Learn more about Tombaugh and his operation in the March 2006 issue of Hay and Forage Grower, or read the article online at Call Tombaugh at 309-531-HAAY or visit

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Hayfields are starting to green up in Montana and Joel Flynn, Townsend, is expecting a normal cutting schedule this year. He usually expects to take his first cutting between June 1 and 15. In his area, almost all of last year's crop has been sold. "There certainly isn't any high-quality hay around; it has been gone for some time," he says. "Dairy and horse hays were really scarce and they're gone. The feeder hay is pretty well used up, too, but it took longer to get rid of that. Some areas of the state were pretty dry over the winter and I think some people were buying in anticipation of a drought." The drought fears may have dissipated because much of the state has had good April moisture. Parts of the state are actually above-normal in snow-pack, Flynn says.

"As far as winter survival, I am not aware of any major problems," he states. "We did have some cold spells that I thought might have had some effect on the winter wheat and alfalfa stands, but it doesn't appear to have affected them."

Last summer brought moisture at just the right times to his location in west-central Montana. Eastern Montana actually had a wet summer. "There was an awful lot of dryland hay made last year in areas where they had not been able to make hay for three or four years. I've heard of some ranchers in the eastern part of the state who produced enough hay for two or three years because it just keep growing and they just kept cutting it," he says. "Our area and west of us were probably dryer than normal, and eastern Washington and northern Idaho were pretty dry."

Flynn sells about one-third of his horse hay as small square bales to buyers on the East Coast and in Kentucky. He also makes big square bales of dairy hay and feeder hay for cattle operations. He raises alfalfa and mixed hay, in addition to growing wheat, barley and pinto beans. He sells some straw, but says there is not a high demand locally, and shipping straw out of state is expensive. Flynn's family-run operation is all irrigated. "I expect hay acres in the area may increase slightly because of fertilizer prices," he says.

"Fuel prices are really making it harder to get hay out of the state," he adds. "We are going to have to figure out a way to address the fuel issue. I often contract hay in advance and it is hard to factor fuel costs into the price. In the hay business, you can only charge what the customer will pay."

Contact Flynn at 406-266-3578.

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Iowa Auction Report
Dyersville Sales Company, Dyersville, reports good demand for the 774 tons of hay sold at the April 19 hay auction. "Overall demand was pretty solid and looks to stay that way for a little while longer as cows have not been turned out to pasture, but could be headed there in about two weeks," says Dale Leslein, hay auction manager. "Demand was good for dairy hay and good dry cow/heifer hay. The market slipped a little on damaged hay but it still sold well overall for this time of year." He says most of the talk around the auction was about skyrocketing fuel prices.

Large square bales of premium-quality hay sold for $102.50-117.50/ton. Good hay brought $85-110/ton in big square bales, $87.50-100/ton in large round bales, and $92.50/ton in small squares.

Fair-quality hay ranged from $72.50 to $90/ton in large square bales, and from $60 to $77.50/ton in round bales. Large square bales of utility hay sold for $60-70/ton; round bales of utility hay, for $47.50-65/ton.

Round bales of fair-quality oat hay sold for $40/ton, and large square (3 x 4') bales of wheat straw brought $36-44/bale.

Hay auctions are held at 11 a.m. Wednesdays. Contact Leslein at 563-875-2481 or visit

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**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 9 -- University of California-Davis Alfalfa/Forage & Small Grains Field Day, UC-Davis Agronomy Farm Field Headquarters, Hutchison Road. Take Hutchison Road 1/3 mile west from Hwy. 113 near Davis and look for headquarters on left.

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

**June 14-15 -- Four-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

**Dec. 11-13 -- Western Alfalfa & Forage Conference, Reno, NV. For more information, contact Dan Putnam at 530-752-8982 or, or Glenn Shewmaker at 208-736-3608 or

** Jan. 18-19 -- Southwest Hay Conference, Ruidoso Convention Center, Ruidoso, New Mexico. For more info, contact Doug Whitney at, or call Gina Sterrett at 505-626-5677.

**Jan. 24-25 -- Heart of America Grazing Conference, Holiday Inn, Mount Vernon, IL. Learn more from Garry Lacefield at 270-365-7541, ext. 202, or

**Feb. 27 -- Kentucky Alfalfa Conference, Cave City Convention Center. Learn more at

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Letters To The Editor
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Lora Berg, Editor, eHay Weekly,

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