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 Hay & Forage
 USDA Hay Prices
 A Prism Business Media Publication November 14, 2006 |  
Successful Marketing Requires Constant Focus
Top of the News More Dairy Cows Go To Market
State Reports Idaho Montana
Events Conferences Target Organics, Marketing Calendar
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Hoards Dairyman


Successful Marketing Requires Constant Focus
Most hay customers expect a consistent, high-quality product at a fair price. To provide that, hay producers need to think daily about who they market to and where, says Ken Vaupel. Vaupel, CEO and general manager of Alfagreen Supreme, Toledo, OH, spoke at the recent Western Hay Business Conference & Expo.

"If we aren't focusing on our customers every day, we are missing the target," Vaupel said. He urged hay producers to put together marketing plans to help identify the best market for a particular hay product and to help determine how customers will be served. "Where are you going to market your hay?" Vaupel asked. "Are you going to prioritize where the financial return is the greatest? Will you be marketing where the competition is limited?"

Producers should first focus on what makes their hay product better or different from other products to find out if or where they may have competitive or cost advantages. Once a target market has been defined, a producer can analyze supply and demand and focus on how to promote the product.

Define a target market based on criteria such as age, sex, profession, income level and educational level, suggests the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). SBA also offers tips on analyzing the competition. For example, identify the five nearest direct competitors and the indirect competitors offering similar products to your own. Start a file on each competitor, identifying weaknesses and strengths.

Develop a promotional strategy that uses varying methods of promoting the business to the correct audience, SBA suggests. That strategy might include using newspapers, magazines, classified ads or the yellow pages. Or maybe the target market could be reached with a brochure or Web site. Business cards, hats, pens or other promotional items can be important tools. But monitor the success of different promotional tactics to figure out which worked.

A marketing plan should be simple, yet dynamic, Vaupel emphasized. "It needs to include setting a competitive price point in addition to providing a consistent product and consistent service," he noted.

Producers must constantly monitor prices and operating costs to ensure profits. "Set clearly defined expectations," Vaupel said. "A goal could be to earn 1 1/2 times what your cost of money is, whether it be interest rates or your own money. Set minimum expectations, and then think about that 'blow-out-the-top' expectation." He also urged producers to monitor their businesses regularly. "Look at changes in sales revenue, cost analysis, increases or decreases in productivity, rate of return and potential for the growth of your business."

Vaupel oversees one of the largest companies engaged in the dehydration of alfalfa in the U.S. Alfagreen Supreme includes between 12,000 and 20,000 acres of alfalfa. The company controls everything from the seed it buys to when hay is cut. "We produce, process and dehydrate hay," he said. "Our main focus is on the specialty species market, with emphasis on the equine industry. Our niche is serving the feed manufacturing industry."

Contact Vaupel at 800-834-8563, or via email at Learn more about the U.S. Small Business Administration at

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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.
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More Dairy Cows Go To Market
Hay growers targeting the dairy industry may be interested to note heavy culling is cutting into cow numbers, according to Hoard's Dairyman. The magazine reports more than 955,400 dairy cows were slaughtered from May through September this year. This total represents 9.7% more cows slaughtered than a year ago.

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State Reports
Hay production was down significantly in extreme western Idaho, says Robert Bumgarner, Robumco Hay Company, Cambridge. "Production was down by 40% in some areas. The supply is very tight." Bumgarner supplies a 4,000-cow dairy with total hay consumption at 30,000 tons/year. He buys most of the hay that he sells almost exclusively to the dairy market. "Big dairies are relocating to the area," he explains. "Since 1984, we have seen an average growth of around 22,000 milk cows/year. We also continue to see expansion going on in heifer-raising operations." Bumgarner says feeder hay, at less than 150 RFV, is selling for $100/ton and up in his area. USDA reports demand is good but supplies are light in the state.

A three-month moratorium on issuing dairy permits will end Nov. 20 in Cassia County, ID, which is expected to lead to more dairy expansion in Magic Valley, according to the Idaho Ag Weekly. Many of the new Cassia operations are expected to add cattle in stages rather than filling their permits immediately. The Idaho State Department of Agriculture (ISDA) reports the county holds 45,000 milk cows and is fourth largest in the state for number of dairy cows. But that ranking may soon change. Since May 2005, the county has either issued permits for or has permits pending on 150,000 new cattle, according to county records. The issuing of permits will likely resume Dec. 7, when the first hearing for a large dairy is scheduled. Gooding County leads the state in dairy cow numbers with 139,057 as of December 2005. Jerome County is second with about 69,000 cows, and Twin Falls is third with 62,000. Twin Falls County officials recently permitted the county's first large dairy in more than five years. As of last December, Idaho had 475,000 dairy cows, according to ISDA records.

Contact Bumgarner at 208-257-3409.

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This past summer brought some good haymaking weather to southwestern Montana along with some stretches of unusually hot conditions, according to Lenny and Jamie Melhoff, Ruby Mountain Hay & Grain, Inc., Twin Bridges. "We had a lot of heat in July, which cut some of the yield and some of the quality," Lenny explains. "We had good irrigation water for the season and were able to get hay up quickly without rain." They produce alfalfa and alfalfa-grass mixtures and sell small square, 3 x 4' and big round bales to the horse and feeder hay markets. "We are getting lots of demand from out of state, which creates a vacuum in the area," Jamie says. The Melhoffs sell hay within a 100-mile radius and deliver to customers themselves. They attended the recent Western Hay Business Conference & Expo in Spokane, WA, to investigate the organic hay market.

Contact Ruby Mountain Hay & Grain at 406-684-5011.

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Conferences Target Organics, Marketing
Organic production and marketing to consumers are the topics to be covered Dec. 6-7 in two back-to-back conferences hosted by the University of Illinois. Entitled "A Recipe for Success," the conferences will be held at the Interstate Center, 2301 West Market St., Bloomington.

On Dec. 6, the Illinois Organic Production Conference will provide science- and farmer-based information for producers interested in organic agriculture. Organic farming practices and certification will be covered for livestock, grain, specialty crops and more. Break-out session topics include perennial weed control in organic systems, organic certification, and state and university organic programs.

The Dec. 7 conference theme is "Marketing Strategies for Consumer-Driven Agriculture." Speakers will address "The Top Ten Retailers' Top Ten Tactics To Top Last Year's Sales" as well as other topics. Other break-out sessions will address market development, market penetration, using online marketing tools, Web design ideas to attract and keep customers, and principles of target marketing.

Products and services pertaining to organic production and marketing will be available in a trade show during the conferences.

Registration for one conference is $60/person; for both conferences, $100/person. Prices after Nov. 22 will be $90/person and $150/person. Visit, or contact Dan Anderson, conference chair, at 217-333-1588 or, or Crystal Bartanen at 217- 244-8160, or

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The quest for the perfect bale leads here: New Holland BR Series round balers. With innovative features like the exclusive EdgeWrap™ option that wraps bales faster than twine and produces a more weather-resistant, easier-to-handle bale. To learn more, see your local New Holland dealer or call 1-888-290-7377.
**Nov. 14-15 -- 2006 BEEF Magazine's Quality Summit, Clarion Hotel, Oklahoma City. Learn more and sign up at

**Nov. 21 -- Kentucky Grazing Conference, Fayette County Extension, 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

**Dec. 13-14 -- Kansas Hay & Grazing Conference, Kansas State Fairgrounds, Hutchinson, KS. Call Gary Kilgore at 620-431-1530.

**Jan. 17-18 -- 2007 Washington State Hay Growers Association Annual Conference & Trade Show, Three Rivers Convention Center, Kennewick. Contact the Washington State Hay Growers Association at 509-585-5460.

**Jan. 18-19 -- Southwest Hay Conference, Ruidoso Convention Center, Ruidoso, NM. Learn more at the New Mexico Hay Association Web site at 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 Justin Sexten, University of Illinois, at 618-242-9310 or

**Feb. 6-7 -- The Nebraska Alfalfa Marketing Association's Mid-America Alfalfa Expo, Buffalo County Fairgrounds, Kearney, NE. Visit or call Barb Kinnan at 800-743-1649.

**Feb. 7-8 -- Utah Hay & Forage Symposium, Holiday Inn Resort, St. George. Details for participants and exhibitors are available at, or contact Thomas Griggs at 435-797-2259, or

**Feb. 9 -- Ohio Forage & Grassland Council Annual Conference, Reynoldsburg. Contact Mark Sulc at 614-292-9084.

**Feb. 22 -- Kentucky Alfalfa Conference, Cave City Convention Center. Learn more at

**Feb. 26-27 -- 2007 Idaho Alfalfa & Forage Conference, Red Lion Canyon Springs Hotel, Twin Falls. More details will be available 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

**March 13-14 -- 2007 Midwest Hay Business Conference & Expo, KCI Expo Center, Kansas City, MO. Learn more at

**March 14-15 -- 2007 Manitoba Forage Symposium, MacDon Product Showcase Building, Winnipeg, MB, CA. For more info, visit or contact Tanis Sirski at 204-768-2781 or

**March 21-22 -- 2007 Central Plains Dairy Expo, Sheraton Inn, Sioux Falls, SD. Learn more at or call Kathy Tonneson at 218-236-8420.

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Lora Berg, Editor, eHay Weekly,

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