Canadian Offers Hay Marketing Insight
By Don Allan, Sylvan Lake, Alberta,
Editor's Note: Don Allan, a longtime eHay Weekly
reader, offered to share some information about marketing hay in
Alberta. Allan says his Web site is a crucial selling tool.
One of the biggest challenges to hay growers in our province for the
past couple of years has been inclement weather during the harvesting
season and the resulting marketing situation. Most of the hay in our
area is put up in large round bales with more large square bales
appearing on the scene each year. With the export timothy market having
softened due to a number of factors, there appears to be a shift to the
production of more mixed hay (alfalfa and grass) in large round bales
for the beef cattle market.
Due to the exposure we have through our Web site, at allanhay.com, our marketing
area has expanded considerably. While the hay demand in our immediate
area is relatively soft due to carryover the past two years, we have
found a market for our hay to horse feeders at greater distances. The
current fuel cost has limited the distance that hay can be hauled and
still remain competitive in the buyer's local market area. Due to the
nature of Alberta, where beef cattle numbers are relatively high
compared to dairy cattle and horses, we typically move most of our hay
to cow-calf or beef backgrounding operations.
Our focus is to present the best-quality hay we possibly can to the
marketplace. Many horse people have been frustrated at the challenge of
finding dust-free hay over the past two years as a lot of mixed farming
operations are primarily growing hay for their own use and selling any
surplus. The "feed the best and sell the rest" philosophy is very
present. A range cow doesn't mind a bit of dust, so the hay is often
baled a little tougher than it should be just to get it off before the
next shower comes through.
As specialized hay growers, we monitor the moisture content very closely
when baling to enable us to provide the cleanest hay possible. Sometimes
this means hay will get a shower on it, but we prefer to allow this to
happen rather than baling it before it is properly cured.
The key to the horse market in our province is clean hay and friendly
service. We package the bales according to the needs of the buyer. We
contact our customers prior to baling and ask what kind of bales they
want. No-rain hay (a challenge in our area) in round bales is
net-wrapped with three layers to minimize spoilage due to rain. We have
found that this is almost as effective and much more economical than
tarping. Small squares need to be stacked and tarped right away, of
course. For the most part, we haul our own round bales with a
self-unloading single-axle farm truck or a 45' semi-trailer. Small
square bales are picked up by the customers or are custom-hauled to them
by commercial truckers with retrievers or self-unloading decks.
When orders come in that we are unable to fill out of our own
production, we help out friends and neighbors in the area by selling
their hay to our customers. On a weekly basis during the marketing
season, we take a semi-trailer load (32 bales) of mid-grade hay to the
auction market at Ponoka, Alberta. We pick up a lot of new customers
there. Marketing hay into a regional surplus situation is the biggest
challenge growers have faced in our area recently. Twine-tied round
bales can only be kept outside so long before there is too much spoilage
for them to hold their value. As a result, much hay has been dumped into
the marketplace at about half the cost of production.
With the advent of online search engines, finding hay sources on the
Internet has become a popular pastime for hay connoisseurs. Having found
its value to us as primary producers and fledgling brokers, we are in
the process of setting up an agricultural Web design division to assist
other growers in capitalizing on this new marketing tool. Our planned
start-up date is Aug. 1, 2006.
Contact Allan at 403-887-1728, write to him at RR1 Box 1069B, Sylvan
Lake, AB T4S 1X6, Canada, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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CRP Acres Released In Drought-Stressed
As drought conditions worsen in many areas of the
country, USDA is releasing additional Conservation Reserve Program (CRP)
acreage for emergency grazing. It recently released CRP lands in 31
Kansas counties due to serious, long-term drought conditions.
Additionally, CRP lands have been released in various counties in
Nebraska, Colorado, Oklahoma, Texas and New Mexico, and other states are
urging the administration to respond to local conditions.
The U.S. Drought Monitor (www.drought.unl.edu/dm/monitor.html) reports that more
than half of the lower 48 states were classified as abnormally dry or
worse, with 35% experiencing moderate to exceptional drought, an area
17% larger than it was last week. In addition, above-average
temperatures are predicted for a large portion of the central and
eastern states in the near future.
Source: U.S. AgNet.
Three States Form Dairy Pact
New York state Agriculture Commissioner Patrick Brennan
and his counterparts in Pennsylvania and Vermont have entered into an
agreement to work cooperatively to enhance the dairy industries in all
three states. New York, Pennsylvania and Vermont together make up one of
the country's three major milk producing regions. Collectively, they
produce over 25 billion pounds of milk annually, nearly 15% of the
nation's total milk supply. The three states share similar concerns
about maintaining a viable dairy industry in the region at the same time
the national dairy market sees rapid expansion in the West.
The pact also calls for the creation of a tri-state dairy advisory
board, to be made up of representatives of each state's dairy industry.
Source: New York Business Review.
Washington State Offers Organics Major
This fall, Washington State University (WSU) will be
the country's first university to offer a major in organic agriculture
systems and is leading a movement among ag schools to put organic
farming in the curriculum. "WSU has been conducting research in organics
for more than 25-30 years. It seemed only natural to have a program in
it," says John Reganold, a soil scientist who conceived the new major.
The trend reflects rising consumer demand for food grown without the use
of synthetic pesticides and synthetic fertilizers, antibiotics, hormones
or genetic engineering. "Organics are 2% of the market, with dairy being
the fastest growing," says Reganold. That figure is expected to double
by 2010. The increased availability is expected to cause prices of
organic foods to drop. Retail sales of organic foods have escalated 20%
annually since 1990, according to a 2002 USDA report.
Source: Washington State University.
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Potato leafhoppers have recently been a problem in the
eastern third of the state. According to the Nebraska Crop Watch
newsletter, potato leafhoppers have the potential to hurt alfalfa in
Nebraska every year, usually in the second and third cuttings. Southerly
winds bring them into the state. Some damage has been reported, so it is
time to begin scouting.
Source: Nebraska Crop Watch Newsletter. Learn more at cropwatch.unl.edu.
A very dry winter was followed by an extremely dry
spring, leaving Arkansas hay growers with about 50-60% of their normal
crop, reports John Jennings, University of Arkansas extension forage
specialist. "Fescue and ryegrass fields matured quickly due to hot, dry
weather in April. That suppressed the warm-season grass that was trying
to start up at that time. The cool-season grass crop was short, and the
bermudagrass crop is late," Jennings says. "We normally have a good
harvest by now. Some bermudagrass has been harvested, but we aren't
getting nearly normal yields." Last year was also dry in Arkansas, with
low hay yields. Consequently, most of the extra hay has been used up. "A
lot of producers are facing a short crop with no reserves on-hand,"
Jennings says. "Prices are staying up there because the supply is so
low, but there is not a lot of hay being sold." The forecast is not
favorable for a turnaround anytime soon.
"We're making a hard push for stockpiling bermudagrass and fescue for
grazing this fall to help reduce the need for hay; that may help save a
few folks, especially with this short crop," he says. Pastures are still
in fair shape, although they're starting to show signs of drought
stress. "We're at the point where we just wait to see what the weather
Contact Jennings at 501-671-2350.
Quite a bit or northwestern Iowa got much-needed rain
over the weekend, says Joel DeJong, Plymouth County extension crops and
field agent in LeMars. Most alfalfa growers got pretty good first
cuttings, but dryness was affecting regrowth. "The second cutting is
maturing a little quicker and we are seeing buds on these plants around
21 days," says DeJong. Established alfalfa and bromegrass stands
performed okay in spite of the dryness. However, new alfalfa seedings
Grass hay had good growth early, but high temperatures and less moisture
in the last five weeks had some impact on yield.
Hayfields made it through last winter in good shape. Soil moisture was
good going into spring, but then the rain stopped in early May. "Forage
demand is probably going to go up because pastures haven't been very
productive so far this year; many pastures are dormant," says DeJong.
Contact DeJong at 712-546-7835.
It's going to be a rough year for forages in Vermont,
predicts Sidney Bosworth, University of Vermont extension forage
agronomist. Record rainfall in May and June delayed the first cutting.
Many fields haven't been harvested yet. "Over the past weekend, weather
was improved enough that many fields have now been chopped, and more are
on the way," Bosworth reports. "However, first-cut quality is going to
be way below normal."
Contact Bosworth at 802-656-0478.
Rain in mid-May delayed hay harvest in parts of
Wisconsin as growers tried to avoid tearing up wet fields. Most
first-crop hay has now been harvested in Fond du Lac County, says Mike
Rankin, county extension agent. Quality was variable, depending on how
much rain fell on the hay after cutting. "By and large we were pretty
pleased with yields," says Rankin. "A lot of the stands on the eastern
side of the state are new seedings from last year because we lost so
much due to winterkill the winter before."
Alfalfa weevils chewed on some second-crop regrowth, especially in the
southern part of the state. Overall, regrowth has been good, with plenty
of moisture state-wide. "Some of the new seedings this spring didn't
establish very well because of rain or likely diseases associated with
wetter soil conditions, and some of those stands needed to be torn up
and reseeded," Rankin says.
After unusually wet conditions in 2004, then extremely dry weather in
2005, growers didn't have large hay inventories. "This growing season is
a catch-up season after two bad years," he says.
Meanwhile, most first-crop hay has been harvested in Dane County, with
some second-crop cutting expected this week, according to David Fischer,
county crops and soils agent, Madison. "Our first crop, for the most
part, was of excellent quality," he reports. "We did have some rained-on
hay, but that happens every year. Our first-crop quantity was average at
best. We had a lot of high winds during the first to middle part of May,
and we had a lot of lodging in our first crop. There was a lot of
difficulty cutting some of these fields. It was a shorter crop."
Winterkill was not a problem in the area this year. There are some
localized alfalfa weevil problems in second-crop regrowth. "I think we
are on the end of the weevil problems," Fischer says. Potato leafhoppers
have not been a problem as of yet, but he expects they could be coming
at any time.
Contact Rankin at 920-929-3171. Contact Fischer at 608-224-3716.
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Iowa Haying And Grazing Field Day Is June
A haying and grazing field day is planned for Tuesday,
June 27, beginning at the Jimmy Carpenter farm, six miles east of
Millerton, IA, on county highway J22. Demonstrations at the Carpenter
farm will include 2005 air-seeded alfalfa without a cover crop,
2005-2006 yields using three fertilizer rates, forage testing and hay
quality analysis, and costs and returns from hay production in southern
The second stop on the schedule is the Bruce George farm to see a split
grazing of pantheon canary grass. Demonstrations at this stop will
include cost-and-return comparisons for nitrogen vs. non-fertilized
pastures and a look at what can make stocker/grazing programs
For more information, contact Joe Sellers, Lucas County Extension, at
**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,
**June 22 -- Montana Hay Day And Field Research Tour, Montana
State University Central Agricultural Research Center, 2 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.
**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
**July 19 -- Northeast Florida Beef And Forage Group Regional Hay
Field Day, North Florida Research and Education Center, Suwannee
Valley, Live Oak. Registration begins at 8:30 a.m. Refreshments, lunch
and packet included in $5 registration fee. Call Elena Toro at
386-752-5384 by July 14.
**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.
**Oct. 17-19 -- Sunbelt Ag Exposition, Moultrie, GA.
**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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or Glenn
Shewmaker at 208-736-3608 or email@example.com.
**Jan. 18-19 -- Southwest Hay Conference, Ruidoso Convention
Center, Ruidoso, New Mexico. Contact Doug Whitney at firstname.lastname@example.org, 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.
**Feb. 28-March 2 -- National Grassfed Beef Conference,
Grantville, PA. Contact John Comerford at 814-863-3661 or email@example.com, or Dave Hartman at
570-784-6660, ext. 12, or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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