Weekly: Brought to you by Hay & Forage
 Hay & Forage
 USDA Hay Prices
 A Prism Business Media Publication May 16, 2006 |  
Hay Stocks Are Down
Top of the News More Milk, Fewer Cows In 2007 Ethanol Growth Challenges Hay Markets
Insect Update Illinois Nebraska Pennsylvania
State Reports Colorado Michigan Montana Pennsylvania
Events Workshop Focuses On Alfalfa Insects Montana Tour And Hay Day Is June 22 Calendar eHay Weekly Archives Available
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Hay Stocks Are Down
USDA's May 12 Crop Production report shows less hay in storage on U.S. farms compared to year-ago amounts. According to the report, all hay stored on farms on May 1 totaled 21.3 million tons, down 23% from the May 1, 2005, figure. Disappearance of hay from Dec. 1, 2005, to May 1, 2006, totaled 83.7 million tons, 3% less than during the same period a year earlier.

Thirty-six of the 48 reporting states had lower May 1 hay stocks than they did a year ago. In most states, stocks were also below year-earlier levels on Dec. 1. Drought in the central Corn Belt and southern Great Plains last summer led to increased supplemental hay feeding, reducing the Dec. 1 stocks. The largest decreases in May 1 stocks were in Texas and Missouri, where drought continued through winter and spring. Pasture growth has been stunted and cattle producers have been forced to continue heavy feeding from already short hay supplies. Many Texas producers began buying hay from other states in February.

Hay stocks increased across the northern Great Plains and upper Mississippi Valley. Montana, Minnesota and North Dakota showed the largest increases, as all three states had a mild winter that reduced the amount of supplemental feeding required. Additionally, 2005 hay production was a record high in Montana and the second highest on record in North Dakota.

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Top of the News
More Milk, Fewer Cows In 2007
Dairy hay producers take note. In its World Agricultural Supply And Demand Estimate report, USDA predicts that 2007 U.S. milk production will increase gradually as weaker milk prices and higher feed costs lead to a reduction in dairy cow inventory. Milk per cow is expected to continue increasing but at a slower rate than in 2006.

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Ethanol Growth Challenges Hay Markets
Hay producers in some parts of the country are facing growing competition from the ethanol industry as distiller's grains are added to dairy and beef diets, squeezing out part of the hay market. As the ethanol industry continues to grow and expand, cattle feeding operations likely will change feeding methods as well, according to Greg Lardy, North Dakota State University extension beef cattle specialist. Nebraska is already using a large portion of the byproduct from ethanol plants and will likely find ways to use even more, he notes. Distiller's grains can also be used in cow diets and as supplements for pastured cattle.

Each bushel of corn used by an ethanol plant produces about 2.3-2.7 gallons of ethanol and about 18 lbs of dried distiller's grains. A plant producing 40 million gallons of ethanol annually will use approximately 17 million bushels of corn and produce about 132,000 tons of dried distiller's grains. "This is enough byproduct to feed 185,000 head of feedlot cattle annually, assuming a 15% dietary inclusion level on a dry matter basis," Lardy explains.

According to the Renewable Fuels Association, 33 ethanol plants are under construction in the U.S. They will add 1,893 million gallons of annual production capacity when completed, more than a 40% increase.

The bulk of the current expansion is taking place in Nebraska, which will add 455.5 million gallons of production. South Dakota has also seen dramatic expansion. The South Dakota Corn Utilization Council says ethanol plants use 1 in every 4 bu of corn grown in the state.

Source: The Ranch Hand newsletter, North Dakota State University.

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Insect Update
University of Illinois entomologists are warning the state's hay growers to expect increasing numbers of potato leafhoppers in coming weeks. Leafhoppers have already begun showing up in the state's alfalfa fields. Growers in the southern third of Illinois, where the first cutting has already occurred, need to pay close attention to leafhopper numbers and the potential for injury to regrowth over the next several weeks, according to the entomologists. Growers should begin scouting alfalfa fields now and continue at least weekly throughout the growing season.

Source: University of Illinois Integrated Pest Management Bulletin.

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Based on growing degree days, alfalfa weevil larvae should be hatching from eggs throughout Nebraska, and small pinholes may be visible in the new alfalfa growth near plant tips, according to University of Nebraska reports. While alfalfa weevil damage has been spotty in much of Nebraska over the past few years, the potential for damage always exists. It's essential that fields be monitored for weevil feeding now. Damage consists of small holes and interveinal feeding on the newest leaflets near the stem tips.

Clover leaf weevils are occasionally a problem; however, they are very vulnerable to fungus disease and so haven't been pests since the late 80s to early 90s when spring rains were rare in the state. Dry conditions the past several years may have helped them build their populations, but recent rains may have decreased populations. Clover leaf weevil larvae will be in debris around the crowns during the day. Scratching the soil around the crowns and counting the number of larvae found per crown will help give a better idea of clover leaf weevil infestation. Their brown heads will help distinguish them from the black-headed alfalfa weevils.

Alfalfa weevils and clover leaf weevils feed on first-cutting alfalfa as larvae and on the regrowth as adults. While research in northeastern Nebraska has shown that clover leaf weevil feeding does not reduce first-cutting alfalfa yield, alfalfa weevil feeding can cause severe losses to the yield and quality of that cutting.

Source: University of Nebraska Crop Watch newsletter.

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A combination of dry weather and a mild winter has produced alfalfa weevil infestations in some areas. Growers should evaluate their fields to decide if and when they need treatment, says Mena Hautau, Penn State University extension educator. Many fields in southeastern Pennsylvania have heavy feeding where the leaves are skeletonized and exhibit a "frosted" appearance. In these cases, growers should harvest alfalfa now and check regrowth, Hautau says. If larvae are crawling back onto the stems and refeeding, an insecticide treatment is necessary. If there is no feeding, there is no reason to treat the stand.

In areas of the state where alfalfa weevils have yet to be active, growers should take time now to scout fields and assess activity.

Source: Penn State Field Crop News.

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State Reports
"We have some serious situations going on in Colorado right now," reports Randy Hammerstrom, market reporter, USDA-Colorado Department of Agriculture Market News, Greeley.

Alfalfa growers in the San Luis Valley reported severe winterkill, with preliminary estimates pointing to a 40-80% loss. Hay from that south-central Colorado valley supplies dairies in Colorado, Texas and New Mexico. "A January warm-up caused alfalfa to come out of dormancy, followed by cold snaps in February and March," says Hammerstrom. "That resulted in very significant damage considering the amount of quality hay that comes out of that area, plus their water situation is pretty tight."

Water is a big topic of conversation among growers. Southeastern Colorado has been in a drought for several years, and water is tight in many parts of the state. Under a new state law, 400 irrigation wells are being shut down along the South Platte River, which could affect up to 200 growers. The law is aimed at replenishing the underground aquifer that supplies that northeastern Colorado river.

The lack of irrigation water comes when little extra hay is on hand. "When Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico were so dry earlier this year, they pretty much used up our hay supply, so Colorado's hay supply is pretty tight," Hammerstrom says. "With the combination of the San Luis Valley only being able to do 20-40% of its crop this year, and shutting our wells off, we are in line for a tight hay supply again this year. Usually we carry some hay over from year to year, but we don't have carryover now. We are probably going to have to rely more heavily on hay from Nebraska and Kansas. It looks like parts of Kansas could be below-average in hay production this year."

Hammerstrom's Colorado Hay Report is at

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The first alfalfa cutting could begin late this week in southeastern Michigan, according to Michigan State University. New fall seedings are said to be extremely weedy, though the first cutting should help take care of the annual weeds. Alfalfa weevils don't seem to be a problem yet.

Alfalfa is growing well in southwestern Michigan, where most fields are 16-18" tall. Alfalfa weevils continue to be an issue, and many fields are at or above the treatment threshold. Timely cutting kills most larvae, pupae and some adults. Growers are urged to consider early cutting rather than spraying to preserve natural enemies and reduce costs. Mike Allen, Michigan State extension dairy nutritionist, says for an initial NDF content of 40%, growers should start cutting alfalfa when it reaches 750 growing degree days.

In west-central Michigan, alfalfa is 8-10" high with very little alfalfa weevil damage. The crop looks excellent in the central part of the state, and harvesting is expected to start this week. No alfalfa weevils have been found thus far. New seedings are beginning to emerge.

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Many Montana alfalfa fields are in rough shape after winter, especially in the north-central and northeastern parts of the state, report two Montana State University extension specialists.

Jack Riesselman, extension plant pathologist, has seen damage ranging from slow, erratic growth to complete stand loss. "Individual plants with spongy crowns and taproots are likely dead, and injured plants have asymmetrical bud growth on only one side of the crown," Riesselman states.

Some 50-degree daytime temperatures were followed by arctic blasts of -10 degrees or below, says Dennis Cash, extension forage specialist. He notes that winter injury is usually worse in older stands that had crown and root rot, inappropriate summer harvest timing or an insufficient autumn hardening of plants. "In Montana, scientists have documented how poor harvest timing of alfalfa influences fall hardening in otherwise well-managed stands of appropriate alfalfa varieties," Cash says.

Montana has significant alfalfa winter damage at least once every 10 years. The good news, the specialists agree, is that winter precipitation was good across most of the state, so spring pastures are in good shape.

If this year's winter injury only affects a small portion of a field, the stand can be renovated earlier than planned, possibly after first cutting if the field is weedy and has low production. A severely damaged stand should be renovated right away, and it's important to consider proper re-establishment practices and economics. Some growers may attempt to reseed alfalfa directly back into a thin or winterkilled stand. Cash and Riesselman don't recommend it due to the cost of seed, competition from weeds and old alfalfa, soil-borne disease loads, and autotoxic compounds released from alfalfa crowns and roots.

When an alfalfa stand is renovated, the two specialists say the field should be rotated to a "grassy" crop for one or two years to reduce the prevalence of weeds, diseases and the old sod. "A practicable solution for 2006 would be to plant hay barley by no-till or drilling behind light tillage," Cash says. After haying, the regrowth alfalfa and weeds can then be terminated by herbicides and/or tillage in late summer. In 2007, a winter or spring cereal could be grown or the land fallowed, then alfalfa could be reseeded in 2008.

Detailed information on harvest timing in Montana can be found at, while winterkill information is at Details on best management practices are available at

Contact Cash at 406-994-5688 or, or Riesselman at

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Rye is being mowed for straw around much of Pennsylvania, according to Andrew Frankenfield, Penn State University extension educator. He says the challenge rye straw producers are facing this year is the lack of rain to bleach it. Some rye has dried enough to bale but is still green and needs a shower. Most growers mow just prior to flowering to maximize the yield, but also want to get it off in time to double-crop soybeans or sweet corn. Unlike hay, rye straw needs a rain shower or two to bleach it from green to yellow or almost white.

Since the straw market has increased in recent years, more farmers are looking for ways to bale more of it and have it earlier in the season. Rye does both of those things and more. It's relatively easy to establish, can be planted later than wheat and yields more straw. A 1 1/2- to 2-ton yield is average, but over 3 tons/acre are possible. It's an excellent nutrient scavenger and a good cover crop to protect the soil over winter after soybeans or other low-residue crops like vegetables are harvested.

Rye is mowed after heading but before the seed develops. It's tedded once or twice while it dries and needs a couple tenths of an inch of rain to bleach, then is raked and baled. Most of the market in southeastern Pennsylvania is small square bales for mulch on construction sites, but it makes great bedding for livestock and horses. Precut rye straw is longer, cleaner and brighter than wheat straw, making it favored bedding at livestock shows and fairs.

Learn more about producing quality precut rye straw in the August 2002 Hay & Forage Grower article, "Nothing But The Best." It's available online at Contact Frankenfield at 610-489-4315.

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Workshop Focuses On Alfalfa Insects
A June 15 Purdue University Forage Management Workshop will focus on harmful and beneficial forage insects. "Insects in Alfalfa -- The Good, the Bad and the Ugly," is part of the workshop hosted by the Purdue Crop Diagnostic Training and Research Center.

"When we talk about alfalfa and different forages, we often focus on a number of pests and how to get rid of them," says Corey Gerber, center director. "But beneficial insects reside in alfalfa and other forages, and will attack and control a number of the pests. We'll teach people to look for those beneficial insects in the field. If they are present, you may have enough beneficials to take care of the pest problem."

Weed control options in alfalfa, and fertilizer uses, such as nitrogen applied on grasses, will also be addressed, Gerber says.

The workshop is the first of four diagnostic training days planned by the center. The Integrated Problem Solving Workshop will be held June 16; the Mid-Season Diagnostic Workshop, July 13; and the Late-Season Diagnostic Workshop, Aug. 29. The workshops will run from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and feature speakers from Purdue's departments of agronomy, botany and plant pathology, and entomology. Registration is $80/person for the forage workshop and $100/person for the others. Registration forms and workshop brochures are available at For more information, contact Gerber at 765-496-3755 or

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Montana Tour And Hay Day Is June 22
The 2006 Field Research Tour and Hay Day will be held June 22 at the Montana State University Central Agricultural Research Center. The tour will feature alfalfa variety trials, spring cereal forage varieties, Willow Creek winter wheat and other winter cereal forage species and varieties. It will also look at perennial grass species and variety trials, legume inoculation, and the effect of companion crops on alfalfa stands.

The event will include demonstrations on the effect of seeding date on spring cereal forages and the effect of nitrogen rate on stand establishment when nitrogen fertilizer is placed with barley and spring wheat seed.

The research center is two miles west of Moccasin. Registration will begin at 9 a.m. and tours at 9:30. A lunch is scheduled. For more information, contact the center at 406-423-5421, or David Wichman at 406-423-5421 or

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**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.

**June 21 -- Intergenerational Transfer, New Swing 10 Parlor and Freestall Tour and Intensive Grazing Pasture Walk, Chris and Angie Neis Farm, 12433 Loran Road, Mt. Carroll, IL. Jim Morrison, University of Illinois Extension, will discuss pasture species renovation and fertility management. Contact Kevin Bernhardt, 608-342-1365.

**July 6-8 -- Missouri Dairy Grazing Conference, University of Missouri Southwest Research Center, Mt. Vernon. Learn more about the conference and tours at Mail registration to Missouri Dairy Grazing Conference, University of Missouri Extension, 700 Main Street, Suite 4, Cassville, MO 65625 or call 417-847-3161.

**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. 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. 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. Contact 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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eHay Weekly Archives Available
The previous 12 months of eHay Weekly can be found on the Web site. Click on eHay Weekly archives in the brown box on the left-hand side; then select which month you would like to review.

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Comments from Readers
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Lora Berg, Editor, eHay Weekly,

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