August rains have taken some of the pressure off severely stretched hay supplies in many parts of Indiana. Yet the state will still face a deficit heading into the winter feeding season, says Keith Johnson, forage specialist with Purdue University Extension.

Northern Indiana has benefitted most from this month’s rains. “There are still parts of Indiana that are hurting,” says Johnson. “But in areas where they’ve had rain, things seem to be responding. People will be able to make a good last harvest.”

The rains have also improved pasture growth in many areas. “Several weeks from now, there should be enough pasture growth so that people won’t have to be feeding as much hay as they have been over the last couple of months. There was a lot of intended-for-winter hay fed in July and August.”

Even so, Johnson advises producers to go slow in turning animals onto pasture. “You’ll want to let grasses and legumes preferably grow to 8” in height before you start grazing. That will be best in terms of pasture productivity in future years.”

Reports of dairy-quality alfalfa selling for around $300/ton have been circulating. But Johnson says it may not be in the best interest of commercial hay growers to sit on inventories hoping that prices will go higher.

“Some people might be thinking that they’ll be able to get another $50-100/ton if they wait until next February or March to sell what they have. It could happen, but it might not. A lot of livestock producers will start looking for alternative feeds at a certain pricing point. Buyers and sellers alike need to keep long-term relationships in mind.”

Johnson can be contacted at 765-494-4800 or johnsonk@purdue.edu.