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2019 hay season in review

Compiled by Progressive Forage editors Published on 06 December 2019
hay review

Last year we asked producers from around the country how their hay season had gone. We had such a great response that we decided to do the same thing this year. We gave three specific questions we consider to be burning questions in the industry.

Question No. 1: Several seasons of difficult weather have some producers talking about not planting alfalfa anymore. If you grow alfalfa, are you planning to continue? If not, why not?

“I’ll plant a little more alfalfa, for my own use. Not selling anymore; no market left in the area, unfortunately.” – Paul in Minnesota

“We will continue to plant alfalfa-grass mix, and on some acreage, straight grass.” – Monty in Michigan

“Demand is strong. I will continue with alfalfa and plant more into my grass.” – Mike in Tennessee

“I will continue to wear out the alfalfa I have; I don't plan on planting any more. I had a lot of winterkill last year, and the wet spring didn't help things out. I'll drill orchard in with the alfalfa I do have and will move to all grass in the future.” – Hay producer in Indiana

Question No. 2: What changes will you make to your operation based on this year's haying experiences?

“Baleage is becoming my go-to choice. With the Minnesota monsoon season lasting almost as long as Minnesota winter and Minnesota road construction season, it’s the only way I can make quality feed.” – Paul in Minnesota

“One new thing in my arsenal of tricks is raking two windrows on one twice. We start raking two windrows on one a day before we think alfalfa will be fit to bale dry, then rake two on one again the next day. This accomplishes two things: It gets the original swath off the wet dirt a day sooner, and it gets us fewer larger windrows, which significantly decreases time spent baling.” – Neil in Iowa

“A lot more adding preservative or inoculant when baling.” – Cy in Minnesota

“Purchased a sprayer this year and started a spraying program. With these late starts for dry hay and lack of rotations, some of the fields are getting on the weedy side. We need to stand out from everybody else that thinks they can bale anything that grows.” – Hay producer in Pennsylvania

“For the first time this fall, we delivered "wet bales," wrapped on-site at the customer’s. This was necessitated by the weather and the urgent need to finish getting his feed supply in place. This might be an option, along with individually wrapping and delivering, down the road.” – Monty in Michigan

Question Number 3: Will your hay acreage next year increase, decrease or stay the same?

“We will increase our hay acres slightly next year.” – Tim in Ohio

“Thinking I'm reaching a plateau on increasing tons per acre. Would like to add around 30 acres in the future, if market demand is there, and the price is right on the ground. I believe there will always be a market for quality hay, and that's the market I'm going after.” – Larry in Michigan

“Hay acreage will continue to grow; the demand is high for good-quality cattle hay. I have a lot of neighbors and friends that are short this year due to the wet spring and hot summer with a weak second and nonexistent third.” – Derek in Indiana

“Our hay acres are increasing greatly over the next couple years. We took control of a 50-acre block that we are in the process of rejuvenating.” – Hay producer in Pennsylvania  end mark

ILLUSTRATION: Illustration by Kristen Phillips.

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