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 Hay & Forage
 USDA Hay Prices
 A Prism Business Media Publication August 1, 2006 |  
Fall-Seed Grasses Early
Top of the News Heat Takes Toll On California Dairy Cows Midwestern Officials Seek Disaster Assistance
State Reports Alabama Colorado Kansas Michigan
Events Western Hay Business Conference Is Oct. 24-25 Calendar
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This Week's USDA Hay Prices by State

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Fall-Seed Grasses Early
By Dan Undersander, University of Wisconsin Forage Agronomist
Late-summer or fall establishment of grass is often desired in the Midwest. Most farmers don't realize how much the seeding date affects the yield of the grasses the next year. We seeded six forage grasses at several late-summer and fall dates at three sites in Wisconsin (River Falls, Arlington and Lancaster) over three years. Seeding dates were spaced approximately every two to three weeks from about Aug. 1 to late November. Species included orchardgrass, smooth bromegrass, timothy, reed canarygrass, perennial ryegrass and tall fescue.

All of the grasses seeded by mid- to late September produced stands with visible plants before we had a killing frost most years, and these plants usually survived the winter. Later seedings did not produce visible plants until spring, if at all. Slow-establishing species, particularly reed canarygrass, produced better stands when seeded by early September. Timothy tended to be the most variable with regard to seeding date and next-year yield. In only one trial out of nine did a November seeding, where the seed lay dormant over winter, produce a stand the next spring.

The most important finding is that grasses with earlier seeding dates (early through mid-August) usually had more tillers per square foot, more tillers per plant and higher dry matter yield the following season. The average first-cutting yield the spring after seeding ranged from 1.5 tons/acre to less than 0.5 ton/acre when the grasses were harvested at the boot stage, depending on when they were sown the previous year. By later cuttings the stands had recovered and all yielded well. However, delaying late-summer seeding from mid-August to mid-September generally resulted in 1 ton/acre less yield the next year.

This study clearly shows that delaying grass seeding in the late summer or early fall not only increases the risk of establishment failure but reduces yield of the stand the next year. Therefore, we recommend seeding grasses as early as possible during August.

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Top of the News
Heat Takes Toll On California Dairy Cows
The Modesto Bee, Modesto, CA, reports the state's recent brutal heat wave has resulted in the death of about 1% of the milk-producing dairy cows in Stanislaus County. That's about 1,400 cows. Dairy operators in the county keep 13% of their cows dry. None of the dry cows were said to be in danger. The health of the dairy industry matters in the northern San Joaquin Valley, where milk is the top farm product, bringing an estimated $1.6 billion in gross income to farmers in 2004, the paper reports. Stanislaus County dairies grossed $550 million in 2005.

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Midwestern Officials Seek Disaster Assistance
The Midwest's leading state agriculture officials have called on the federal government to approve disaster assistance for farmers and ranchers impacted by drought and other adverse weather. The request came in a resolution approved at the Midwest Association of State Departments of Agriculture (MASDA) annual meeting in Madison, WI, last week. The resolution urges Congress, the president and USDA "to move rapidly to implement disaster legislation to provide financial assistance to producers affected by the drought and other adverse weather conditions covering the 2005 and 2006 crop years." MASDA is comprised of the commissioners, secretaries and directors of agriculture of North Dakota, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin.

Source: U.S. AgNet.

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State Reports
There is no hay to move in Alabama, The Ledger-Enquirer of Columbus, GA, says as hay supplies dwindle, drought conditions have forced Alabama cattle producers to sell calves and thin herds early to avoid further losses. Even if Alabama were to get adequate rain soon, it would take about a month for pastures to recover from the severe drought that has plagued the state this summer. Federal officials recently opened some Conservation Reserve Program (CRP) acreage for emergency haying and grazing in six counties: Elmore, Montgomery, Macon, Pike, Covington and Geneva. The area extends 150 miles out from any of those counties.

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Hay demand is high and supply is limited in much of Colorado, reports Don Leonard, Don's Hay Service, Brush. "Almost any kind of hay is bringing at least $110-120/ton," he says. "As the quality goes up, so does the price, but the transportation is pretty high on it, too." First cutting was a little short due to a lack of rain, but quality was good. Growers have started on the third cutting and quantities should be sufficient on irrigated circles -- as long as the water holds out.

Water is a huge topic of conversation in the West, Leonard reports. "We are short of water here on the South Platte River," he says. "Later cutting isn't going to be possible unless we get some rain. We have had very little rain here this summer. The long-term forecast isn't all that good, either. We are going to be in trouble with irrigation water for next year unless we get high snow-pack and some extra moisture that can replenish these underground aquifers."

Other parts of Colorado have had a little more moisture this summer. Leonard says the western slope area has gotten some rain and snow-pack was adequate in most parts of northern Colorado last winter. "However, we have had an extremely hot summer," he says. "We've had many days over 100 degrees, which is not usual for this area. July brought hot winds from the South, too, which dried things out."

Leonard says lots of hay trucks are heading south out of the state toward New Mexico and Texas, in spite of high fuel prices.

He produces 3 x 3' and 4 x 4' bales of horse and dairy hay and sells throughout the U.S. He delivers hay within Colorado and to surrounding states with his own trucks.

Contact Leonard at 970-842-3058.

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Hay supplies are tight and water is getting tighter in Kansas, according to Steve Hessman, Kansas Department of Agriculture-USDA Market News Service, Dodge City. Currently, about two-thirds of Kansas is under moderate to severe drought, while the remaining third is abnormally dry. "I'm afraid we just might run out of alfalfa for feedlots," he says. "Production has been down because of the hot, dry weather. The heat has been terrible. Irrigators are running into their water allotments and are trying to stretch the water as much as possible. They want to keep the hay alive but can't afford to waste any water."

Hessman says most growers have seen about a one-third decline in production because of the drought, even with irrigation. Dryland hay growers have seen their production cut almost in half. In addition, feed yards are receiving more cattle from the even drier surrounding states and nutritionists are balancing rations with less alfalfa. "We are seeing more and more cutting of hay on CRP land in order to have hay for cow herds and feedlots," Hessman says.

Dairy producers need hay, but are struggling to pay for it due to low milk prices.

There will probably be a lot of silage and baled feed made from drought-stressed crops, but Hessman reminds producers to test for nitrates before feeding. "Run those feed tests whether you are a buyer or a seller," he states.

Farmers and ranchers who need the latest drought information should visit the Kansas Department of Agriculture Web site at The department hosts three Web pages -- Kansas Drought Information, Procedures for Emergency Federal Assistance and Drought News -- that explain the state's role in a drought, how an agriculture disaster is declared, and link to the latest drought news from Governor Kathleen Sebelius, the Kansas Farm Service Agency and USDA. The site also provides links to hay and pasture Web sites.

Contact Hessman at 620-227-8881.

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Some areas of Michigan have huge rainfall deficits, while others have big surpluses -- in some cases for the second consecutive year. The upper peninsula, northern lower peninsula and southwestern corner of the state have consistently seen less precipitation over the last two years. The upper half of the lower peninsula from Oceana County across to the Saginaw Bay and north toward Alpena has received more.

According to Jeff Andresen, a Michigan State University meteorologist, 9 to 11" of rain is normally recorded in the three-month period from May to July. This year the dry areas have been under that norm by as much as 6", whereas the wet areas have been over by 6". Nationally, he notes, the West has suffered from drought while the East Coast has been hammered with rain. "Michigan is somewhere in between," he says.

Source: Michigan State University.

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Western Hay Business Conference Is Oct. 24-25
The Western Hay Business Conference and Expo, sponsored by Hay & Forage Grower, is scheduled for Oct. 24-25 at the Red Lion Hotel at the Park in Spokane, WA. It will feature a panel of innovative hay growers discussing ways to increase sales and profits. Other speakers will cover hay export opportunities.

Come to the conference to learn tips on how to squeeze more profit from your hay business. Learn more about alfalfa's role in human nutrition, in building materials, and as fodder for ethanol. Learn more about how to maximize yields and profits from timothy and orchardgrass. Find out why hay growers need to look at the organic hay market and what horse hay buyers want and how they want it.

Register for $150 per person and bring a second person from your operation for $125. Learn more at

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**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.

**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, 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. 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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