Like many good producers, Eric Ziel is concerned about wheel-traffic losses on the alfalfa fields he manages.

But Ziel, Boone, IA, contends with more traffic than most. Since 2008, he’s managed the 160 acres of alfalfa used for demonstrations and parking at the Central Iowa Expo in Boone, site of this year’s June 25-26 Hay & Forage Expo.

“So far, the hay has come back remarkably well considering what it looks like after you have 20,000-30,000 cars on it,” says Ziel.

The traffic-tolerant variety, seeded in 2008, is now in its sixth year of production. “We’ve had a very good stand up through last year, and I’m hoping this winter wasn’t too hard on it,” he mentioned in early April as fields were beginning to green up.

Ziel knows the land well – he used to own it. He sold the 100 acres making up the expo site, donated another 10 acres for a road, and his farmland surrounds the site. He and a neighbor, Don Uthe, Ames, share some equipment to produce continuous corn on 2,200 acres. But Ziel also deals with the deadlines of cropping the expo’s alfalfa to coincide with events held at the site.

The job is busiest in even-numbered years. This year, not only is the Hay & Forage Expo scheduled, but also the Farm Progress Show, set for Aug. 26-28. Ziel manages some of the cornfields for that show, too.

“We have to time our cuttings according to shows, and the show site is used for other events as well,” Ziel says. This show season, a music festival will be held there May 11, and 40 acres of alfalfa must be cut so the land can be used for parking. “That’s a little early for us to do a first cutting, especially in a year like this, but we try to get a cutting in.”

Fields used for parking are most challenging. “We try to cut hay so it’s off two weeks before the shows so it gets some strength back down to the roots. If we get it off in that time frame, the hay has more nutrient reserves to withstand all the traffic.

“Then we’ll do another cutting to try to time it for the hay show. And, of course, the weather doesn’t always cooperate, but we try to do the best we can so the hay is the right size for the show.”

Fields are fertilized well with phosphorus and potassium and supplemented with micronutrients – boron, sulfur and zinc. “We’re trying to get some of the micros out there to help with the health of the plants and for traffic recovery.”

All the hay produced, usually in round bales from first cuttings and large squares in second, third and sometimes fourth cuttings, is sold to dairies, including a goat farm, and some cow-calf operations.  Ziel works with another neighbor, Daryl Doerder, to manage the hay.

This year’s Hay & Forage Expo, as in past years, will offer the newest hay-harvesting tools in the largest two-day demonstration event in the country. The latest hay and forage production technology, as well as displays from major and short-line equipment manufacturers, will encompass a 10-acre exhibit field.

Speakers will include reknowned climatologist Elywnn Taylor from Iowa State University Extension, and Matt Darr, Iowa State University ag engineer. Darr will discuss how to manage and market corn stover as biomass for cellulosic biorefineries.

Hay & Forage Grower, as well as Wallaces Farmer, The Farmer and Wisconsin Agriculturist, are hosts of the annual expo.