A long stretch of dry weather crimped third-crop alfalfa yields for many growers in central Minnesota, reports Dan Martens, University of Minnesota Extension educator for Stearns, Morrison and Benton counties.

“With the exception of a few scattered showers here and there, we haven’t had any significant rainfall since June 20,” he reports.

Third-cut production varied depending on individual cutting schedules. “Those who were working on a later schedule were more affected by the dry weather and had more limited growth. And on ground that isn’t irrigated, we’re seeing very little fourth-crop regrowth at this point in time.”

How limited yields on the later cuttings might affect overall alfalfa supplies and prices in the region remains a question. Many Minnesota and Wisconsin growers contended with severe winterkill heading into the growing season and carryover hay stocks were low. Wet weather produced higher-than-typical first-crop yields, but quality in many cases was less than desired. Weather was more favorable overall for second crop. But some producers reported lower relative feed values than anticipated because warm temperatures and moisture pushed the crop along quickly.

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Regional grass-hay supplies, heading into fall and winter, are also low, he says. Dry weather shriveled pastures in recent weeks, so many cow-calf producers have begun feeding supplemental hay. Others have culled animals earlier than normal to stretch available forages.

Martens has also heard reports of many livestock producers “working meadows and roadside ditches” for additional hay. “We’ll just have to wait and see how much of that is available come fall.”

Producers who think they’ll need additional feed to carry them through winter should assess inventories and connect with feed suppliers now, he advises.

The likely increase in corn silage will affect hay prices. Delayed spring plantings, then drought, have slowed or stunted corn-grain development. That led some farmers in Martens’ area to start chopping corn for silage last week.

 “There could be a lot of that kind of forage available,” says Martens. “If that turns out to be the case, it would take some of the intensity out of the hay market this winter.”

To contact Martens, call 320-968-5077 or email marte011@umn.edu.

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