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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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
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
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%
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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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
Source: University of Illinois Integrated Pest Management Bulletin.
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.
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
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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"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
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 www.ams.usda.gov/mnreports/GL_GR310.txt.
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
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.
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
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 www.uwex.edu/ces/crops/uwforage/StandEvaluationFOF.htm.
Details on best management practices are available at animalrangeextension.montana.edu/articles/forage/alfalfa/alfalfa_est.htm.
Contact Cash at 406-994-5688 or email@example.com, or Riesselman at
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 hayandforage.com/mag/farming_nothing_best/index.html.
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 www.agry.purdue.edu/dtc/open.htm. For more
information, contact Gerber at 765-496-3755 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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
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 email@example.com.
**May 25 -- University of Florida Corn Silage and
Forage Field Day, Plant Science Unit, Citra. 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 -- 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 agebb.missouri.edu/dairy/grazing/index.htm. Mail
registration to Missouri Dairy Grazing Conference, University of
Missouri Extension, 700 Main Street, Suite 4, Cassville, MO 65625 or
**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.
**Dec. 11-13 -- Western Alfalfa & Forage Conference, Reno, NV.
Contact Dan Putnam at 530-752-8982 or email@example.com, or Glenn
Shewmaker at 208-736-3608 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
**Jan. 18-19 -- Southwest Hay Conference, Ruidoso Convention
Center, Ruidoso, New Mexico. Contact Doug Whitney at email@example.com, 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 www.uky.edu/Ag/Forage.
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