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 USDA Hay Prices
 A Prism Business Media Publication July 25, 2006 |  
Producing High-Quality Alfalfa Despite The Heat
Top of the News Iowa State Offers Organic Crop Budgets USDA Reports More Cows, More Milk
State Reports Minnesota Missouri
Events Precision Selling Seminar May Target Large Markets Calendar
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Producing High-Quality Alfalfa Despite The Heat
By Bruce Anderson, University of Nebraska Extension Forage Specialist
When it gets hot, alfalfa plants suffer. Growth rates decrease and moisture stress is common, even in moist soil. High nighttime temperatures also cause rapid metabolic rates that burn off valuable plant nutrients stored during the day. This cycle often produces fine-stemmed alfalfa hay that's high in protein and fiber but has low relative feed value.

Heat-stressed alfalfa also matures faster than normal and may begin to bloom in less than four weeks. If you use blooming as a signal to harvest, this early blooming can be misleading. During hot weather, alfalfa plants need more time, not less, to rebuild nutrient reserves in their roots. Under these conditions, watch your calendar as well as your plants to determine when to cut.

You also might want to adjust when you cut hay during the day. Some research has shown that late-afternoon cuttings produce higher-quality hay than morning cuttings. But on good drying days, it may be wiser to cut in the morning. When hay in the windrow stays above 50% moisture, plant cells continue to respire, burning away valuable nutrients. Hay cut late in the day respires all night long, losing yield and quality. On good drying days, plant cells can dry enough to be stabilized before nightfall, reducing respiration losses.

Source: University of Nebraska Crop Watch newsletter.

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Top of the News
Iowa State Offers Organic Crop Budgets
A new Iowa State University (ISU) extension publication can help organic hay producers assess costs and revenue associated with growing organic hay and other field crops. The Organic Crop Production Enterprise Budgets publication contains four enterprise budget worksheets that can estimate financial consequences of organic crop production. Organic growers may have three to six different products to develop budgets for, depending upon the number of crops within their rotations. These budgets reflect a four-year rotation of corn, soybeans, oats with alfalfa and a second year of alfalfa as the crops.

Each worksheet provides sample budgets based on a long-term Iowa State University research farm study. The data was modified to more accurately reflect average Iowa results as indicated by organic farmers who reviewed the budgets

The publication (FM1876) is available through any ISU extension office, online through the ISU Extension Distribution Center or by calling 515-294-5247. An electronic copy of it is available at

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USDA Reports More Cows, More Milk
Milk production in the 23 major dairy states during June totaled 14 billion pounds, up 1.9% from the same month last year, according to USDA's monthly report released last week. May revised production, at 14.7 billion pounds, was up 2.7% from May 2005 production.

Production per cow in the 23 states averaged 1,695 lbs for June, 5 lbs above the June 2005 figure. The number of milk cows on farms in those states totaled 8.27 million, 128,000 more than in June 2005, and 9,000 more than in May 2006.

California production was up 0.6% from the year-ago number. That state added 30,000 cows but production per cow was down 15 lbs. Wisconsin production was up 1% on 8,000 more cows and a 5-lb gain per cow. This reportedly is the first time there's been an increase in Wisconsin dairy cow numbers since the early 1980s.

The biggest production increase occurred in New Mexico (12.9%), thanks to 35,000 more cows and a 35-lb gain per cow. Texas was next, up 10.2%, thanks to a 100-lb gain per cow and 13,000 more head.

Florida posted the biggest production loss (7.6%) due a 60-lb drop in per-cow production.

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The biggest ideas in balers come from New Holland. Like New Holland BR Series round balers with eight different baler models to precisely fit your operation. They feature the XtraSweep™ pickup, which allows you to easily handle heavy or windblown windrows to bring in more crop. To learn more, see your local New Holland dealer or call 1-888-290-7377.
State Reports
Many southern Minnesota hay producers are putting up their third hay crops, reports Lisa Behnken, University of Minnesota regional extension educator, Rochester. "It was warm and wet early, so we had an excellent first crop, and we've been about one week ahead with every cutting," she reports. "June and July turned quite dry, but we still had a respectable second cutting."

Producers are keeping an eye on potato leafhopper populations, she says. "We've had a rapid increase in potato leafhoppers in the last couple of weeks. They were starting to heat up before second crop was harvested, and since we got that crop off, we have had little to no rain. We've had just the right weather patterns for potato leafhopper movement and development, so populations have increased quickly. Folks should continue to scout their fields and stay ahead of potato leafhopper damage," she adds.

Pastures are looking dry in southern Minnesota, which could lead to increased forage demand. Producers are wondering if drought-stressed corn silage could be a problem as well. "The dry weather definitely has brought some of these issues onto the radar screens," Behnken says.

The U.S. Drought Monitor Program of USDA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officially designated northwestern, north-central and east-central Minnesota to be in a severe drought as of July 18. Most of the 14 counties ready to petition for federal emergency disaster declarations are in northwestern and central Minnesota, reports USDA's Farm Service Agency. There is speculation that the number may double if the drought continues into and beyond August.

Contact Behnken at 507-280-2867.

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Much of Missouri has had one of the hottest summers on record. Hay yields have been one-third to one-half lower in some areas.

Southwestern Missouri is the driest. Hay was being fed as of July 1. Rains in early July brought some relief in many parts of the state, reports Tony Hancock, market reporter for the Missouri Department of Agriculture, Jefferson City. Even so, some areas got around 6" of rain, while others received 1-2". "The rain helped put runoff back in ponds and helped some of the dry areas of the state," Hancock states. "Most of northern Missouri is low on water, but it has had enough rain to keep things green. Southwestern Missouri has been burning up, and we saw a lot of young calves being sold early. A lot of people had been thinking about thinning out cow herds until they got some rain. Now we are waiting to see if it is going to get hot and dry again or if we'll be able to get some more moisture."

Producers have been making a lot of grass hay and are trying to build supplies. "We had used up most of our hay supplies prior to now," says Hancock. Some producers have been buying hay from Iowa. "We typically haul a lot into Missouri from Kansas, but producers aren't having any luck finding much hay in Kansas."

Many producers think the hay market has hit top prices in Missouri until feeding season gets well under way in January and February. "We should have plenty of hay for winter if nothing bad happens, but not necessarily the best-quality hay," Hancock says. "The dairies aren't buying high-quality hay. They won't pay for it and they don't want it right now. High-quality brome hay is really hot."

The last two storm fronts brought potato leafhoppers into the state, says University of Missouri entomologist Wayne Bailey. He urges producers to check fields at least twice per week. Newly seeded alfalfa fields and fields recently cut for hay are most vulnerable, Bailey says. Fields regrowing after hay harvest can be heavily damaged by small infestations of leafhoppers.

Harvesting can reduce hopper nymph counts by 90%, University of Missouri research shows. Hancock says most producers he has been talking to recently manage infestations by cutting.

Contact Tony Hancock at 573-751-5618, and Wayne Bailey at 573-864-9905.

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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.
Precision Selling Seminar May Target Large Markets
The Purdue University Precision Selling Seminar, to be held July 27-28, could help hay producers target their marketing programs toward large farms.

The seminar, at Purdue's West Lafayette, IN, campus, will allow participants to explore the factors influencing decisions of large-operation producers. It aims to reach people responsible for servicing and selling to key farm accounts. A panel of large-operation producers will be a part of the seminar.

Registration is $1,495 and includes program materials, snacks and some meals. Download the seminar brochure or register online at, or contact the center at 765-494-4247.

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**July 27-28 -- Purdue University Precision Selling Seminar, West Lafayette, IN. Download a brochure or register online at, or call 765-494-4247.

**Aug. 7-9 -- Texas A&M Beef Cattle Short Course, Texas A&M University, College Station. Register online at or by calling 979-845-6931.

**Aug. 25 -- Illinois Forage Expo, Hildebrandt Farms, 2475 State Line Road, South Beloit. Learn more at, or contact the Illinois Forage & Grassland Council at 618-664-0555, ext. 3.

**Sept. 7-9 -- National Hay Association 111th Annual Convention, Snow King Resort, Jackson Hole, WY. Call 800-707-0014 or visit

**Sept. 7-9 -- Stockman's School For Profit, Rockin H Ranch, Norwood, MO. Gerald Fry and Cody Holms will provide real live data and a close-up look at how the Rockin H Ranch of 900 cow/calf pairs has grown to a successful family operation in the last 31 years. Ranchers can learn how to profitably operate a ranch. Contact Cody Holmes at 417-844-2619, email, or visit

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

**Sept. 21-24 -- World Beef Expo, Wisconsin State Fair Park near Milwaukee. Learn more at, or call 414-266-7050.

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

**Oct. 17-19 -- Sunbelt Ag Exposition, Moultrie, GA. For more information, visit or call 229-985-1968.

**Oct. 20-21 -- 5th Annual Pennsylvania Statewide Project Grass Conference, Williamsport. Featured speakers include Jim Gerrish and Allen Williams, plus many more. Contact Kris Ribble at or 570-784-4401 ext. 111.

**Oct. 24-25 -- Western Hay Business Conference And Expo, Red Lion Hotel at the Park, Spokane, WA. Sponsored by Hay & Forage Grower. Register at $150 per person and bring a second person from your operation for $125. 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, NM. 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. 6-7 -- Mid-America Alfalfa Expo, Buffalo County Fairgrounds, Kearney, NE. For more information, visit or call Barb Kinnan at 800-743-1649.

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

**Feb. 28-March 2 -- National Grassfed Beef Conference, Grantville, PA. Contact John Comerford at 814-863-3661 or, or Dave Hartman at 570-784-6660, ext. 12, or

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Lora Berg, Editor, eHay Weekly,

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