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Weekly: Brought to you by Hay & Forage
 Hay & Forage
 USDA Hay Prices
 A Prism Business Media Publication December 19, 2006 |  
Western States Lack Water But Not Dairies
Top of the News USDA Study Probes Horse Industry Trends
State Reports Colorado Midwest Nebraska
Events Nebraska Alfalfa Expo Set For Feb. 6-7 Calendar A Holiday Wish
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This Week's USDA Hay Prices by State

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Western States Lack Water But Not Dairies
A shortage of water continues to be a critical issue faced by Western growers, according to specialists who spoke on emerging forage issues at the Western Alfalfa and Forage Conference held last week in Reno, NV.

Nevertheless, said Glenn Shewmaker, forage specialist with the University of Idaho, improved varieties, sprinkler management, more attention to alfalfa as a cash crop -- and a surge of new dairies -- have helped Northwestern growers get more money per acre.

"Of course, drought still affects the supply so regional hay stocks are low," he told more than 750 people attending the conference.

With the dairy industry's growing demand for hay, the supply, availability and quality of water were cited as "most critical" in Southwestern states by forage specialist Dan Putnam, University of California, Davis.

Water-quality regulations have been intensifying. Watershed groups were created and have taxed farmer-members to fund water-quality monitoring in California, Putnam said. At the same time, alfalfa yields are steady but not increasing, he added. "Over the last 20 years, yields have stayed the same; that's an important issue for the future."

Both specialists specified forage industry trends common to their regions:

Markets -- The increase in number of dairies is "phenomenal," Putnam said. "New Mexico has emerged from a very minor dairy state to one of the top 10 dairy states in the U.S., with a growth of over 700% in cow numbers since 1980." Idaho shows a 300% rise; Arizona, more than 200%. However, the absolute growth in cow numbers has been greatest in California, which accounts for over 50% of the growth in Western dairies. All Western states now produce over 40% of the nation's milk, up from about 15% in the mid-1970s, and also over 40% of the nation's alfalfa.

The horse market has increased "everywhere," said Shewmaker. The need for organic forages is increasing, but is considered a niche market, he added.

Export markets in the Pacific Northwest are also increasing; 5% of that area's hay production, and nearly 20% of Washington state production, are exported to the Pacific Rim.

Rising costs -- "We've seen rising costs of energy and they're going to affect regional and international marketing of hay and forage products," Shewmaker declared. "Hauling forages great distances is highly dependent on continued cheap energy costs. I don't think we're headed there -- certainly not if ethanol comes to fruition; it's still going to be expensive. Operating costs have already increased and will continue to for irrigation and for nitrogen fertilizer. The nitrogen credits from growing legumes such as alfalfa are valuable for reducing costs of growing other crops."

Corn silage -- Acreage of corn planted for silage has doubled in Idaho and grown substantially in California, Arizona and New Mexico. This makes it a major competitor for alfalfa hay in dairy rations, said Putnam. Alfalfa's loss of market share is significant, he added. "The relatively high costs of alfalfa hay (vs. other forages and feeds) is an important factor, as is the need for manure management and its link to corn silage and small-grain forage in the dairy regions."

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Top of the News
USDA Study Probes Horse Industry Trends
Hay growers trying to understand more about the U.S. horse industry may want to refer to a 2005 USDA National Animal Health Monitoring System report that outlines equine health and management trends. Horse operations in 28 states, representing four regions of the country, were surveyed as part of the study. Not surprisingly, a reported 33.2% of the operations in the western region used horses primarily for farm and ranch work compared to 21.3% and 21.7%, in the south and central regions, respectively. The percentages of operations reporting the primary use of horses for pleasure, breeding and racing were similar across the four regions. Other primary uses included carriage rides, transportation, outfitting , hunting and pony rides, among other uses. Learn more about the health and management trends by reading the study online at

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State Reports
Hay supplies are almost all spoken for and gone in much of Colorado, according to Don Leonard, Don's Hay Service, Brush. "There is a little forage hay left and some baled cornstalks, but that is about it," he reports. "If the winter gets tough, I think we will really be short. I don't think people have all the hay they need. There wasn't any carryover, either."

Leonard says buyers from Texas and Oklahoma cleaned up hay supplies. He had enough hay to supply most of his customers, but not enough extra hay for new clients. "If people hadn't bought hay from me for a year or two, they were out of luck," he says. "Bottom-end hay has been bringing $120/ton in the area, while supreme hay is selling for between $150 and $160/ton. Small bales of horse hay are over $200/ton."

Leonard says water is a big issue in his state as ag producers compete with municipalities for water rights. He hopes early snow in the mountains and on the eastern slope will help replenish the irrigation water for next year. "However, we need snow-pack in our area and not just in the mountains," he adds. "If we see a reduction in hay acres in our area it will be because of lack of water and because more people may be going into corn."

Leonard 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 in much of the Midwest are generally somewhat short, with the exception of southern Minnesota and Wisconsin, where growers are knee-deep in hay, reports Dan Undersander, University of Wisconsin forage agronomist. Minnesota was dry from the Minneapolis area north, but the area south of that line had a near-record hay year. "The drought across the West has had a big impact on hay supplies, and irrigation issues across the West are also big," says Undersander. "The Texas drought has caused Nebraska hay to go south instead of east this year." He expects hay prices to be stable to higher than they were a year ago in much of the Midwest, with the exception of Minnesota and Wisconsin, where supplies are good. "Dairy hay is not in a big shortage in the Midwest," Undersander states. "Dairymen north of the Twin Cities made corn silage this year. Horse hay is a bigger issue."

The University of Wisconsin's Weekly Hay Market Demand and Price Report for the Upper Midwest shows small square bales of prime hay (greater than 151 relative feed value/relative forage quality) averaging $122/ton, with a maximum price of $160 and a minimum of $87.50. Large square bales of prime hay averaged $124/ton, peaking at $180 and bottoming at $72.50. Large round bales sold for $48 to $117.50/ton, averaging $83.79.

Grade 1 hay (125-150 RFV/RFQ) brought $140/ton in small square bales. Large square bales averaged $77.19/ton, ranging from $55 to $100. Large round bales averaged $62.50/ton, ranging from $40 to $80.

No sales of small square bales of Grade 2 hay (103-124 RFV/RFQ) were reported. Large square bales in this category averaged $48.75/ton, ranging from $40 to $55, and round bales ranged from $32.50 to $58.93/ton, averaging $44.42.

Straw prices averaged $2.73 per small square bale, ranging from $1.75 to $3.70; $24.98 per large square bale, with a range of $18 to $25; and $17.16 per large round bale, with a range of $12 to $26.

Contact Dan Undersander at 608-263-5070. Visit the University of Wisconsin Upper Midwest Hay Report site at

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Much of Nebraska's hay inventory is gone, reports Martin Freed, Loomis. "From Nebraska to Texas, the pipeline seems to be depleted," he says. "People who have hay to feed aren't letting go of it." Freed says he has sold a lot of feedlot grinding hay for $100/ton. "It's amazing how the hay at the bottom of the market has gone up in price, while the top hay didn't go up as much," he says.

The growing season started out dry, so Freed had to irrigate early. "We had a good first cutting with good hay and good weather. Good-quality irrigated tonnage was acceptable, but dryland hay was very poor," he says. Many Nebraska growers sold their first-cutting hay to buyers from Texas and Oklahoma. Untimely showers in June and July hurt quality without delivering significant amounts of moisture. August brought 14" of rain, resulting in grinding hay and lower-quality hay. "We did have a good local grinding market and the price was up," Freed says. Late fourth- and fifth-cutting hay was low on tonnage, but good quality. Freed says there are a number of ads for sorghum-sudan and cane hay, but there doesn't seem to be much alfalfa available in his area.

He sells to the dairy and beef markets. He usually gets five cuttings on his own alfalfa acres, in addition to custom haying and producing prairie hay and sorghum-sudan.

Contact Freed at 308-991-3651.

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Nebraska Alfalfa Expo Set For Feb. 6-7
The Mid-America Alfalfa Expo, hosted by the Nebraska Alfalfa Marketing Association (NAMA), will be held Feb. 6-7 at the Buffalo County Fairgrounds, Kearney. More than 100 companies will showcase the latest in forage handling and production equipment both days of the event.

On Feb. 6, alfalfa yield vs. quality will be discussed by Neal Martin, director of the U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center. That afternoon, equipment manufacturers will hold a panel discussion on new technology and equipment for 2007. At 3:30 p.m., an exhibitor-consigned auction of forage-related products will be held.

On Feb. 7, Gene Ross of Nelson Irrigation will offer tips on managing irrigation efficiency and productivity, and Martin will discuss new uses for alfalfa, including biofuels. The expo ends with a producer panel and open forum featuring NAMA members.

For more information, contact Barb Kinnan, executive director, at or 800-743-1649. Visit for a complete expo schedule.

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**Jan. 17-18 -- 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. 22 -- Delmarva Hay and Pasture Conference, Delaware State Fairgrounds, Harrington, DE. Contact Les Vough at 301-405-1322 or Learn more at

**Jan. 22-23 -- Wyoming Ag Expo, Douglas. Contact Scott Keith at 307-237-4696.

**Jan. 23 -- Tri-State Hay and Pasture Conference, Quality Inn, Somerset, PA. Contact Les Vough at 301-405-1322 or Learn more at

**Jan. 24 -- Southern & Central Maryland Hay and Pasture Conference, Izaak Walton League, Waldorf, MD. Contact Les Vough at 301-405-1322 or Learn more at

**Jan. 24-25 -- Heart Of America Grazing Conference, Holiday Inn, Mount Vernon, IL. Contact Justin Sexten, University of Illinois, at 618-242-9310 or

**Jan. 30-31 -- 2007 Symposium and Annual Meeting for Wisconsin Custom Operators, Midwest Forage Association, Professional Nutrient Applicators Association of Wisconsin, Wisconsin Dells. Visit

** Jan. 31-Feb 3 -- 2007 Cattle Industry Annual Convention & Trade Show, Nashville, TN. Learn more at Contact the National Cattlemen's Beef Association at 303-694-0305.

**Feb. 7-8 -- Utah Hay & Forage Symposium, Holiday Inn, St. George. Details 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 -- 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 -- Midwest Hay Business Conference & Expo, KCI Expo Center, Kansas City, MO. Learn more at

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

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

**June 23-26 -- American Forage and Grassland Council and Northeast Branch ASA & SSSA Annual Conference, Penn State Conference Center and Hotel, State College, PA. Call 800-944-AFGC or email

** Jan 27-Feb. 1, 2008 -- Joint Society for Range Management and American Forage and Grassland Council Conference, Louisville, KY. Visit

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A Holiday Wish
May your holiday season be filled with peace, joy and hope. Watch for the next eHay Weekly Jan. 9.

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Comments from Readers
Send Questions & Comments To...

Lora Berg, Editor, eHay Weekly,

For information on Hay & Forage Grower, contact:
Neil Tietz, Editor,
Fae Holin, Managing Editor,

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