Overcoming the critical issues of hay shortages in the Midwest

Farm Forum

BROOKINGS (Millborn Seeds) – Midwest farmers will face hay shortages in 2013 due to a combination of variables.

Prior to the summer of 2012, livestock producers were feeling comfortable. The 2012 winter was the easiest most have seen. Spring was dry and warm for calving. On-farm forage supplies were high due to abundant rainfall in 2011. There was even an open winter to allow cattle to graze crop residues. However, much of that has changed across the Midwest in the last year due to an intensely weak first cutting alfalfa coupled with the 2012 summer drought.

According to the recent report by the USDA’s Crop Protection, hay supplies are the lowest they’ve been since 1957. In fact, if CRP contracts wouldn’t have opened up for emergency feed, hay shortages would be even more critical.

“Cow herd numbers across the Midwest continue to decrease with the lack of pasture and forages. Unless you plan to increase your feed crop acres, prepare to cull cows,” said Justin Fruechte, a Specialist in the area of Forage grasses at Millborn Seeds.

Pastures were extremely stressed last year which will affect spring performance. Additionally, acre allocation to forage production is trumped to cash commodities and on-farm supplies are detrimentally short. It doesn’t take an economist to draw a supply and demand curve and correlate it to a future price increase. Thus, producers are seeking out affordable feed options such as forage in effort to maintain their herd.

Annual forages can produce high yields in a short period of time without tying up acres for multiple years. Forage type cereal grains can provide extra feed for wintering stock cows. Forage oats, Triticale, and Forage barley are all very high yielding options for hay or green chopping. For higher quality forage or higher protein sources, forage peas can be added to compliment a cereal grain. Italian Ryegrass provides a high quality, high yielding forage, which provides multiple cuttings. In fact, out of all the forage grasses, Italian Ryegrass has seen the most research and genetic improvement. Its advancements for yield potential and disease resistance has made it a staple for many livestock producers.

For more information on forage options and how they can help provide solutions to hay shortages, please contact Justin Fruechte, Forage and Cover Crop Specialist at Millborn Seeds. 1.888.498.7333 or justinf@millbornseeds.com.