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 Hay & Forage
 USDA Hay Prices
 A Prism Business Media Publication August 22, 2006 |  
Drought Raises Nitrate Concerns
Top of the News Prevent Machinery Fires Enter Forage Analysis Superbowl
State Reports California Illinois Ontario, Canada
Events Register For Western Hay Business Conference Calendar
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This Week's USDA Hay Prices by State

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Drought Raises Nitrate Concerns
Dry summer growing conditions in many parts of the U.S. have raised concerns about high nitrate levels in forage crops. Many cornfields will not produce enough grain to warrant combining costs. Those fields, however, represent opportunities for cattlemen for silage, hay or grazing. Regardless of the harvesting option, nitrates may be a problem, warns Sandy Johnson, Kansas State University livestock production specialist.

"Clinical signs of nitrate poisoning are related to a lack of oxygen in the blood," adds Justin Luther, North Dakota State University extension sheep specialist., "They may include an increase in heart rate and respiration rate, noisy breathing, brownish- or bluish-colored mucous membranes and sudden death."

A few areas in Kansas have received some showers in the past few days, says Johnson, who works with livestock producers in the northwestern part of the state. In plants that are still growing, the showers cause nitrate concentrations to spike even higher as the plant uses the moisture to grow again, which brings in even more nitrogen. "Do not harvest drought-stressed plants for 7-10 days after a rain to avoid this problem," Johnson suggests. "When you do harvest, the highest concentration of nitrates will be in the base of the plant so it's wise to raise the cutter bar to 6-10". If you are grazing, remove the animals before they start grazing the lower portion of the plant."

Ensiling will reduce the nitrate content by 40-60%, she says. But if nitrates are four times the lethal levels before ensiling, reducing them to two times lethal levels may still create feeding challenges. "Be sure to test silage and hay from drought-stressed fields prior to feeding," she advises. Take 20 or more core samples from each field to get an accurate representation of what's there. Nitrate levels will be highly variable across a field and will be impacted by fertilization practices.

"If you elect to graze these fields, remember that weeds present in the field such as kochia and pigweed are also nitrate accumulators," Johnson says. "The 4'-tall or less cornstalks that have bent over and dried up may also be a problem for grazing. As these plants are relatively immature, they are very palatable clear to the ground and the few I have tested show problem levels of nitrates throughout."

If grazing looks like a good option, but weeds and short, burnt-up areas are worrisome, Johnson says to consider inoculating cows with a bacteria capable of reducing the toxic effects of nitrates. "A product called Bova-Pro can be given as a bolus or feed additive 10 days before feeding high-nitrate feedstuffs," she says. "The loss of a single cow or one or more aborted fetuses would pay to treat a lot of cows. I recommend that producers consider Bova-Pro as a risk management tool for high-nitrate feedstuffs. They should check with their veterinarian or feed store for details and availability."

Similar nitrate concerns exist for sorghum-sudan type forages, she says. "Always know what you are feeding before you feed and make sure animals are full when you change diets," Johnson suggests.

Sources: Kansas State University and North Dakota State University.

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Top of the News
Prevent Machinery Fires
Three things must be present for a machinery fire to occur: air, a material to burn and a heat source. Machinery fire prevention focuses both on keeping machinery clean of possible fire-causing materials, and eliminating all possible sources of heat that could lead to a fire, according to John Shutske, University of Minnesota ag safety and health specialist. He urges producers to pay special attention to the engine compartment because over 75% of all machinery fires start in that area. All caked-on grease, oil and crop residue should be removed from the engine area. Clear any wrapped plant materials on bearings, belts and other moving parts. Pay close attention to the operator's manual and follow all instructions and schedules for lubrication and routine maintenance. Repair or replace any leaking fuel or oil hoses immediately.

When performing daily maintenance, quickly scan any exposed electrical wiring for damage or signs of deterioration. Replace any worn or malfunctioning electrical components with proper parts from your dealer. Keep an eye out for worn bearings, belts and chains. A badly worn bearing can glow red-hot. Any rubber belt subjected to intense heat from a worn part can burst into flames.

Shutske recommends a 5-lb, fully charged, ABC dry chemical fire extinguisher be kept on tractors. He suggests a 10-lb unit for combines. Select only extinguishers with an Underwriter's Laboratory approval. Having two extinguishers on the machine is even better in case one malfunctions or loses pressure. Keep one extinguisher mounted in the cab and one where it can be reached from the ground. Check extinguishers periodically and pay special attention to the pressure gauge. To function effectively, the gauge must show adequate pressure to expel the powder inside.

Fire extinguishers should be checked periodically by someone from the local fire department or insurance company. Any extinguisher that has been even partially discharged must be fully recharged before it is used again. During even a brief discharge, Shutske says the tiny dry chemical particles will create a small gap in the internal seal of the extinguisher valve. This tiny opening will cause any remaining pressure to leak out in a few hours or days.

In the event of a fire, having a cell phone or two-way radio nearby will help get professional assistance to the field more quickly. Shutske urges producers to remember that it may not be possible to put out every fire. If the fire is in a difficult-to-reach area or seems out of control, don't risk the chance of injury or death. Wait for help to arrive.

Five research articles with detailed fire protection information can be found at

Source: University of Minnesota.

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Enter Forage Analysis Superbowl
Sept. 5 is the entry deadline for the 2006 World's Forage Analysis Superbowl, the annual quality contest that culminates in October at the World Dairy Expo in Madison, WI. Top winners will receive a season's use of forage or feeding equipment. Many other prizes, including seed and forage inoculants, will also be awarded.

You may enter either of two divisions: the Dairy Division, open to growers with milk production information, or the Commercial Division, open to all other growers. The Dairy Division is divided into hay, haylage and corn silage classes, while the Commercial Division has two classes: hay and baleage.

For entry forms and contest rules, visit and click on the Superbowl logo.

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Innovation meets maximum comfort in the new TS-A Series tractors from New Holland. Get the versatility you need to tackle your list of chores. And choose from a long list of innovative, performance-boosting features for added efficiency and productivity. To learn more, see your local New Holland dealer or call 1-888-290-7377.
State Reports
Many California hay growers have been struggling through one of the hottest summers on record, reports Dan Putnam, University of California, Davis forage extension specialist. "We broke several records in Sacramento and Fresno," Putnam says. "Fresno had six consecutive days over 110 degrees, while Sacramento had 11 consecutive triple-digit days. Most of that hot weather came in July and now it has been cool for the last couple of weeks. Conditions have actually improved for alfalfa production in August."

The heat made it difficult for growers to make high-quality hay, and yields have been down due to the early rain damage and summer heat. The hot summer followed difficult spring conditions with lots of rain and flooding in late March and April. "The first two cuttings were miserable because of the weather. We were just starting to recover from the wet spring when the heat wave hit," Putnam says. "Growers really have to hustle to keep up with irrigation during the extreme hot periods because the water demand for crop production is so much greater under those conditions." Some hay buyers have been holding off making purchases while they wait for better quality.

A number of dairy cattle died during the heat wave. Plus, low milk prices have reduced the buying power of dairies. "The prices for alfalfa have fallen pretty considerably from previous years," Putnam says.

Alfalfa caterpillars, fall armyworms and other pests have been causing more trouble than usual in many areas. "They are very typical for this time of year, but in many cases we have been having pretty substantial worm pressure in August," he states.

Contact Putnam at Learn more about California hay production by visiting the University of California Alfalfa Workgroup Web site at

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Putting up third-cutting alfalfa was difficult in much of Illinois last week, but pastures and hay ground benefited from rains, according to the Illinois Crop Condition Report. Above-normal precipitation returned after a couple weeks of below-normal rainfall. The state averaged 1.55" of rain, ranging from around 0.8" in the northeastern and southwestern parts of the state to over 2" in eastern and southeastern Illinois. Some scattered areas have missed recent rains, and crops and pastures have been negatively impacted. Temperatures moderated later in the week, but the average temperature for the week still ended up being slightly above normal.

The crop condition report states that, as of Aug. 13, 69% of third-cutting alfalfa had been harvested compared to 57% last year. So far this year, many Illinois producers have reported excellent yields from their forage crops. USDA's Aug. 11 Crop Production report indicated that Illinois alfalfa production may be higher than last year, with 1.85 million tons predicted compared to 1.4 million tons produced in 2005. The average yield was estimated at 4.4 tons/acre vs. 3.5 tons last year. Production of all other hay is expected to total 805,000 tons, up from 759,000 tons last year. The average yield -- 2.3 tons/acre -- is the same as last year.

Straw prices were steady, with most of the demand coming from the landscaping industry. Demand has been light to moderate for the moderate to heavy supply of straw, according to USDA.

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Ontario, Canada
In most of the province, regular rainfall and heat have resulted in good growth in pastures and hayfields, according to the most recent Ontario Field Crop Report. Harvesting quality second- and third-cutting hay without rain has been a challenge. However, dry weather in Rainy River, Kenora, Algoma and Manitoulin has reduced forage yields substantially. The third alfalfa cutting is in full swing on many dairy farms intending on harvesting a fourth cutting before the critical fall harvest period. That six-week period begins as early as Aug. 10 in northern Ontario, Aug. 25-30 in eastern and central Ontario and early September in the southwestern part of the province. Avoiding harvest during that period is especially important on farms with a history of winterkill or with aggressive cutting schedules. For information on winterkill risk factors, including the map showing the dates for critical fall harvest period in Ontario, refer to

Pastures continue to be productive across southern Ontario. Timely rains coupled with rotational grazing have allowed for good growth through July and into August. If producers are stockpiling forage for late-fall or early-winter grazing, now is the time to stop grazing those fields. Producers are being advised to clip if there is considerable mature growth, and can apply 50-80 lbs of nitrogen to promote good growth. These stockpiled pastures will provide good-quality, economical forage well after the end of the growing season.

Source: Ontario Field Crop Report.

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Register For Western Hay Business Conference
Plan now to attend the upcoming Western Hay Business Conference and Expo, sponsored by Hay & Forage Grower. 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. 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, 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. 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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