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 In Today's eHay Weekly
 March 31, 2009

Hay Acreage To Rise Slightly, Says USDA
Midwestern Alfalfa Fields Show Heaving
Wisconsin Tested Auctions Winding Down
Adjust Conditioners For Maximum Drying
South Dakota Dairy Group Forming
Quick Clicks
State and Regional Reports
Midwest Horse Fair Set For Mid-April
Calendar Of Events
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Top Of The News

Hay Acreage To Rise Slightly, Says USDA
Growers intend to harvest 60.3 million acres of all types of hay this year, slightly more than in 2008 (60.1 million acres), says USDA. In its March 31 Prospective Plantings report, the agency projects higher acreage throughout most of the central Great Plains and Pacific Northwest, with nearly stable acreage in other regions. The biggest increases are expected in Oklahoma, Michigan and Montana, all up 8%; Wyoming, up 7%; Idaho, up 6%; and Wisconsin and Kansas, both up 5%. States with the largest expected declines include North Dakota, down 13%; New York, down 6%; and Texas, down 3%.

Corn growers expect to harvest 85 million acres of corn for all purposes, down 1% from last year’s figure, and soybean acreage is projected to increase slightly, to 76 million. If the soybean acreage figure is realized, it would set a record. Acreages of oats, sugarbeets and dry beans also are expected to increase, while growers expect to harvest fewer acres of wheat, barley, sorghum and cotton.

For more on 2009 hay acreage and prices, watch for the May issue of Hay & Forage Grower.

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Midwestern Alfalfa Fields Show Heaving
by Fae Holin, Managing Editor, Hay & Forage Grower

Central Illinois alfalfa growers may see a lot of winter damage in fields this spring. Growers near Bloomington to Galesburg to parts north are finding heaving in alfalfa stands usually three to four years old, says Kevin Black, an agronomist with Growmark/FS based in Bloomington.

In one field, plants were consistently 4-6” out of the ground; some as much as 8-10” above ground, he says. “Most of the heaving was occurring on hilltops; we had ice sheeting and accumulated water.”

Heaving usually happens in heavy soils that hold moisture. Alternate freezing and thawing causes the soil to expand and contract, thereby pushing alfalfa taproots out of the ground.

“It’s going to impact a large number of growers” in that area, Black predicts. “I’ve got this gut feeling that a number of growers aren’t even aware of this yet. They’re just expecting that sometime soon their hay is going to green up. They’re more concerned about getting ready for their corn crops and have not yet visited their alfalfa fields. I’m afraid there’s going to be a lot more of this developing."
Click here to read the rest of this story.

Wisconsin Tested Auctions Winding Down
The quality-tested hay auction season is coming to an end in Wisconsin. The Sheboygan County Forage Council will hold its final auction for 2008-09 on Wednesday, April 8, at Chissy’s Restaurant near Waldo. Hay should be on site by 10:30 a.m. on sale day. The auction will begin at noon.

The highest price paid at the March auction was $125/ton, with an average price of $108/ton, reports Sheboygan County extension crops and soils agent Mike Ballweg. “Quality-tested auctions promote the sale of hay based on forage quality,” he says. “Sellers who harvest top-quality forage are rewarded with higher prices. Buyers, on the other hand, can easily select the forage quality best-suited for their livestock needs.” For more information, call Ballweg at 920-459-5904.

The final Dodge County Forage Council (DCFC) tested hay auction will start at 1 p.m. on Tuesday, April 14, at the Beaver Dam Auction Market. For more details and/or to see results from previous auctions, go to the DCFC Web site at or phone Dodge County agriculture agent Matt Hanson at 920-386-3790.


Adjust Conditioners For Maximum Drying
If you haven’t checked and adjusted your conditioning rolls for a couple of years, do it now before spring fieldwork begins in earnest, advises University of Nebraska forage specialist Bruce Anderson. “Your hay will dry faster and your risk of rain damage will decrease,” he says.

Getting alfalfa hay to dry rapidly is one of the biggest challenges of haymaking, Anderson says. The waxy outer layer of alfalfa stems greatly reduces the rate at which moisture can escape. Equipment manufacturers have developed conditioning rolls that should crack or split plant stems so they dry faster. Recently introduced intensive-conditioning systems operate with near-zero clearances so the entire length of stem is crushed. Researchers in several states have shown these intensive systems allow the hay to reach baling moisture a few hours sooner than conventional rolls.

Rolls are designed to turn at different speeds, which causes wear, noise and vibration if sufficient clearance is not maintained. Conventional rolls can be adjusted so the clearance is at the lower end of the manufacturer’s recommended range. Typically, this clearance is 1/16”. When adjusted this close, conventional rolls help speed hay dry-down almost as much as the new intensive systems, and at a much lower cost, says Anderson.

South Dakota Dairy Group Forming
South Dakota Dairy Producers, a new dairy group, will be holding an organizational meeting this Thursday, April 2, at the Central Plains Dairy Expo in Sioux Falls. The meeting will begin at 9 a.m. The group’s purpose is to represent dairy interests in the state.

For more information, contact Chairman Marv Post, Volga, at 605-826-4227, or Executive Director Roger Scheibe, Brookings, at 605-692-1775.


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Quick Clicks
  • Proceedings from the recent 2009 Heart of America Grazing Conference in Columbus, IN, are now available online. Topics covered in the 64-page, pdf edition include getting started in management-intensive grazing, marketing farm-raised products, economic flexibility in raising stockers and replacement dairy heifers, alternative forages in grazing operations and more. Go to

  • Preventing catastrophic failures in polyethylene tanks is the subject of a new online publication from Purdue University Extension. To view the 80-page pdf document, go to

  • With the growing season approaching in most parts of the country, now is the time to start shoring up your equipment maintenance program. For guidelines, check out Virginia Extension’s Five Strategies For Extending Machinery Life at

  • University of Illinois Extension has launched a new Manure Share program to bring gardeners and landscapers searching for organic material together with livestock owners who don’t have sufficient acres to utilize manure nutrients on their fields or pastures. For more details, go to

State and Regional Reports

Domestic hay prices in the province have softened through the winter due to a slack export market, depressed beef prices and lower dairy interest, reports hay grower/dealer Barclay Lutz of Lutz Hay in Lethbridge.

“We saw the same high demand for hay early on in the summer as most of the U.S. did,” says Lutz, who grows alfalfa, timothy and orchardgrass. “When things began to slow down, we saw there was plenty of hay around.”

Lutz categorizes prices in his area as “still very broad.” He says trading has been in the $75-200/ton range with very little trading going on right now. “However, I feel that there is a pretty good balance of hay for sale and hay needed.”

Looking ahead, Lutz expects demand for good hay to remain strong through the coming season. “We will need to remember we have had a drastic drop in barley and corn prices, and we also seem to have access to reasonably priced fertilizer and diesel fuel this year,” he says, adding that those factors could have a negative impact on prices. “However, our cost of production should be a little lower as well.”

To contact Lutz, call 403-380-3906 or email

Seed supplies for just about all alfalfa varieties appear to be adequate to meet demand in most areas of the Midwest. “We haven’t had any reports of any supply outages up to this point,” says Dennis Gehler with Croplan Genetics and based in St. Paul, MN. “We’ll know a little bit more in a week or two on whether there have been any major problems with heaving or ice sheeting.”

He advises producers and agronomists to check fields closely in the next several weeks. “People talk about winter injury, but they really mean spring injury,” he says. “So this is the time to be out there scouting to see what kind of shape stands are in. If there is a significant weather-related problem in a particular area, it could put a run on a local supply. You don’t want to get caught short.”

Joe Waldo, NK/Syngenta Seeds, offers a similar assessment on the seed supply. “It’s really not any tighter now than it has been over the past two years,” says Waldo, who is based in Wisconsin. “Even so, there’s always a potential for a shortage in some areas. A lot depends on how stands come through the winter. One of the things that saved us in the last couple of years is that we haven’t had a lot of winterkill. That seems to be the case again this year, so far anyway.”

Slumping milk prices are another wild card. “A lot of dairy farmers haven’t made up their minds on how many acres of alfalfa they’ll plant this year and how much they’ll have to spend on seed,” he says. “Once we see how that plays out, we’ll have a better idea on supply.”

Waldo says finalizing a purchasing decision in the next couple of weeks would be sound strategy. “If you wait much longer than that, you could find yourself in the position of having to accept whatever your seed dealer has left on hand at the time,” he says.

Mike Velde, Dairyland Seed, is also encouraging buyers to place orders early. “Right now there is an adequate supply industry-wide,” he says. “But the longer you wait, the more likely it is that you won’t be able to get the seed you want. You don’t want to wait until the drill is hooked up to the tractor to go buy your seed.”

Velde also advises against trying to scrimp on seed cost this year. “With alfalfa, you might be able to save $10-20/acre by planting an older variety,” he says. “But if you do that, you’ll be giving up four years of increased yield potential. The cost of new genetics really isn’t that much compared to the potential return you stand to gain by going with a newer variety.”

Contact Gehler at 651-765-5710 or Waldo can be reached at 763-593-7324 or Contact Velde at 608-676-2237 or

South Dakota
Movement of dairy hay out of southeastern South Dakota has slowed to a crawl in recent weeks, reports hay dealer John Haensel of Haensel’s Hidden Hills, Sioux Falls. “Dairy producers are just trying to get by using up what they have on hand,” says Haensel, who operates his own trucking firm and also arranges trucking for South Dakota growers shipping dairy hay nationwide. “Several big dairies have had to close their doors and others have cut back on the number of animals they have.”

The slumping demand has led to significant price drop-off, he says. Current prices for all types of hay are down $30-50/ton from year-ago levels.

Looking ahead, depressed corn grain prices offer the best indication of where hay prices are likely headed, he says. “It usually tracks pretty closely. If corn prices are down, hay prices will be, too. And right now, the corn price isn’t all that good.”

Upticks in fuel costs are also worth monitoring closely. “It got as low as $1.77/gallon this winter,” says Haensel. “But over the last couple of weeks, it’s gone up by 50 cents/gallon. On a 200-gallon fuel tank, that’s an extra $100 that gets tacked on to the price at the other end. That makes a big difference to buyers.”

He can be contacted at 605-351-5760.


Midwest Horse Fair Set For Mid-April
The 2009 Midwest Horse Fair is scheduled for April 17-19 at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison, WI. Billed as an event bringing education, culture, history and all-around knowledge of horses, the three-day fair features educational presentations and clinics, competitions ranging from rodeo to blacksmithing, entertainment and a trade show.

For details and ticket-ordering information, visit

Calendar Of Events
March 31-April 1 -- Fencing For Controlled Grazing Systems, a hands-on fencing school conducted by the Virginia Forage and Grassland Council and Virginia Cooperative Extension. March 31 – Days Inn, Raphine, VA; April 1 – Southern Piedmont AREC, Blackstone, VA. Contact Gordon Groover at 540-231-5850 or

April 1-2 -- Central Plains Dairy Expo, Convention Center, Sioux Falls, SD. Phone 218-236-8420 or visit

April 8 -- Manitoba Forage and Grassland Strategic Workshop, William Glesby Center, Portage la Prairie, MB. Call the Manitoba Forage Council at 204-726-9393.

April 21 -- Georgia 2009 Hay Production School, Stuckey Auditorium, University of Georgia Griffin Campus. Go to

April 24-26 -- 2009 Minnesota Horse Expo, Minnesota State Fairgrounds, St. Paul. Go to

May 8 -- Southwest Dairy Day, Sierra Dairy, Dublin TX. Visit or email

June 21-23 -- American Forage & Grassland Council Annual Conference, Amway Grand Plaza Hotel, Grand Rapids, MI. Call 800-944-2342 or email

July 29-30 -- U.S. Dairy Forage Research Center Getting More From Forages Conference, Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center, Madison, WI. Visit for more details.

Sept. 17-19 -- National Hay Association Convention, Cadillac Jack’s Gaming Resort, Deadwood, SD. Contact Don Kieffer at 800-707-0014 or visit

Sept. 29-Oct. 3 -- World Dairy Expo, Alliant Energy Center, Madison, WI. Visit

Nov. 18-19 -- McCook Farm and Ranch Expo, Red Willow County Fairgrounds, McCook, NE. Visit or call 866-685-0989.

Feb. 16-17, 2010 -- Idaho Hay and Forage Conference, Best Western Burley Inn, Burley. Contact Glenn Shewmaker at 208-736-3608 or


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