Kansas

"We had some winter weather in Kansas in December, which has increased our hay usage and put some support under the hay market," reports Steve Hessman, USDA-Kansas Department of Agriculture market news reporter. "Good row-crop production led to good fall grazing conditions on crop residues prior to December. That has run out now so there is more supplemental feeding going on. There was not much wheat pasture this fall because it was too dry to plant wheat."

In wet, cold weather, Kansas feedyards start to use higher-roughage rations. "Feedyards have used a little more hay through December and beginning of January," Hessman says.

Dairy hay can still be found in the state, but supplies are dwindling. Poor-quality hay is widely available. "Kansas hay producers are still getting calls from the Southeast where folks were hit by the drought, but freight costs are so high that it is difficult to be able to meet those needs," he says.

More hay growers are likely to convert hay ground, especially irrigated fields, to corn, milo and soybeans this year because of high grain prices, Hessman says. "Some of these farmers who have carryover on alfalfa really aren't concerned about the carryover because they are looking for 2008 hay production to be down."

Two new ethanol plants have started production in southwestern Kansas -- in Garden City and Liberal. "Those plants are having an impact on roughage usage, but we don't know the full impact yet," Hessman says. "Alfalfa producers are hoping cattle feeders keep alfalfa in the ration. It's possible more crop residues may be used in feedlot or dairy rations, but we just don't know yet. When you are feeding wet distillers grains, we know some of it is going to be fed with low-quality roughages."

Contact Hessman at 620-227-8881.

Minnesota

Horse hay supplies will be very tight this winter and into spring in Minnesota, says Kevin Nelson, Nelson Hay Company, Hadley. "All the hay I have on hand is already spoken for, and I am forced to tell even past customers that I don't have hay available if they didn't contract for it ahead of time," he says. "It has really paid off for customers who contracted last year. Hay prices at the local auctions are $130 to $180 or more per ton." But quantity at the local auctions has decreased 30-50% compared to what was sold the year before, Nelson says. Farmers are taking alfalfa and grass out of production to put in more corn and beans in his area, he adds. He won't increase his hay acres this year, but did replace older hay fields acre for acre.

Nelson plans to encourage his horse hay customers to buy medium square bales instead of small squares this year. "I plan to push the medium squares for two reasons: one is cost in handling and the other is efficiency," he says. "At this time I plan to offer a $15/ton price difference. Small square bales are time-consuming. I will still be making them; I just plan to offer more of a price difference.

"Due to the drought last year, I was counting bales all summer and I never had to do that before," he states. "This year I may have to limit the total amount of tons available for contracting with customers, in case we have another dry summer."

Nelson will have bales available for potential customers to inspect at the Minnesota Horse Expo, to be held April 25-27 at the state fairgrounds in St. Paul.

Learn more about Nelson Hay Company at www.nelsonhayco.com/ or call Nelson at 507-836-6181.