As hay lots move around the country this fall, buyers need to guard against bringing unwanted pests to their farms and ranches, says Bruce Anderson, forage specialist with University of Nebraska Extension.
“If hay comes from someone close by, you probably won’t bring in anything you don’t already have. But when hay comes from a long distance, you can get pests that are new or extra hard to control.”
Location-specific weeds that buyers should watch for include sericea lespedeza from Kansas, endophyte-infected fescue from Arkansas, leafy spurge from North Dakota, or Canada thistle from Canada, says Anderson. Potential insect problems associated with importing hay would include alfalfa weevils “from just about anywhere” or fire ants from Texas or other states in the southeastern U.S.
Anderson doesn’t suggest that all hay from the areas mentioned will carry problem pests. But while “lots of very good hay is made in these areas,” buyers still need to take steps to reduce the risk of acquiring pests. His suggestions:
• Ask questions to find out what pests are a problem in the area where the hay was grown.
• Check references.
• Reserve the right to refuse the hay after it arrives and has been checked out thoroughly.
• Feed incoming hay in a small area. “That way, if a problem does develop you can keep it isolated and, hopefully, controllable.”