Not much hay is available in Idaho, reports Glenn Shewmaker, University of Idaho extension forage specialist. “There isn’t going to be much carryover, and certainly nothing of quality,” he says. “It is still winter in the uplands, and snow is still on the ground in some areas. Producers will still be feeding hay for two weeks to one month. We have had cooler-than-normal temperatures and alfalfa is at least 10 days to two weeks behind schedule. It’s the same story with the grass on the range.” Shewmaker says there has been plenty of moisture this winter, which should help hay growers recover from last summer’s dry conditions. Snow pack has been normal to slightly above normal and snow depths have been good. There has been some ice sheeting in parts of the state, which may have damaged stands.

The cool-weather delay may have implications all summer. “I’m looking for the first cutting to be below normal in yield and maturity. Cutting before the alfalfa or grass has built up non-structural carbohydrate reserves might be a problem. We could lose 5-10% of our yield all year as a result.” The first cutting usually occurs between May 1 and 16 in lower-elevation areas of the state. “The first crop for dairy hay is typically fed green-chopped or put in a bag because we have to put hay up by Memorial Day due to our weather,” Shewmaker says.

Fertilizer prices are a big concern among the state’s hay growers. Shewmaker is urging them to fine-tune fertility management. He says growers should try to have phosphates at good levels before planting, and that soil tests are especially valuable when making fertilizer decisions. “High fertilizer prices make manure and use of legumes in the rotation more valuable than ever.”

He expects some Idaho hay acres have been lost to wheat and barley this year. In the meantime, hay demand continues to grow due to a strong export market, and still more dairies are coming on line. Dairy owners are buying land to make sure they have sources of feed and forage. Shewmaker expects hay demand to stay strong into the next year.

Contact Shewmaker at 208-736-3608.


“I don’t think growers can produce enough hay in one year to offset the short supply in Michigan,” says Jerry Lindquist, Osceola County extension director. “We went into the winter with depleted hay supplies, and we’re going into the spring with the shortest hay supplies I’ve seen in 25 years.” The state’s livestock producers stretched feed supplies to get through the winter. In the past, Michigan producers had hay shipped in from states like Nebraska and the Dakotas when supplies were short. But high fuel costs this year made that hay too expensive. “People have had to take evasive action to avoid a wreck,” he says. “Many herds have culled cows.” Producers should be able to start turning livestock out to pasture around May 1 in many parts of the state. The first cutting is expected to start around May 25.

Fields in some parts of Michigan were covered by sheets of ice in late January, and the ice stayed until March. There is some fear that hayfields were damaged, although no reports have come in yet. Overall, Lindquist says good snow cover and an easy melt-off helped replenish soil moisture levels and could contribute to a good first cutting. Last year was very dry throughout the state.

Contact Lindquist at 231-832-6139.


Unexpected spring snows the past few weeks have probably slowed alfalfa growth and may reduce first-cut yields in Wisconsin, predicts Dan Undersander, extension forage specialist with the University of Wisconsin.

“We are running about a week or two late. Alfalfa is usually about 6-8” tall now. It hasn’t started growing yet,” Undersander says.

“The snow is largely gone and we’re finally getting close to normal temperatures. Normal temps are 52 degrees and we haven’t been up to them in the last couple of weeks. We’re getting in the high 40s, but not the 50s. We may not be planting late because alfalfa planting’s not until the 15th or 20th of April around here and the soil temperature could be warm enough by then. But first-cutting yield could be down a little bit because we’ll have fewer growing degree days,” he adds.