The cold snap that froze back crops over much of the country's midsection on Easter weekend may have both negative and positive impacts on hay production. Yields of alfalfa and other forage crops will be reduced in many areas, but damaged small grains were expected to be made into hay or silage, offsetting some of the lost production.

Little permanent damage to established alfalfa stands was reported, but topgrowth was severely injured or killed over a wide area. Plants were forced to restart forage production, sending out new shoots from crown buds, which delayed first cutting.

Serious alfalfa damage was reported in Kansas, where growers and crop scouts estimated that the first cutting would be two weeks to as much as four weeks late. That will significantly reduce the season-long yield, Roger Barrett, crop consultant for Farmway Co-op, Beloit, KS, said in late April.

“In this area, we have lost the entire first cutting,” said Barrett. “Our first cutting usually comes around May 10, and this year we won't be able to cut until after June 1. That's a pretty substantial economic loss.”

Mark Sulc, Ohio State University extension forage specialist, was less worried about the alfalfa in his state. He expected a cutting delay of up to two weeks, which might mean that Ohio growers get three cuttings instead of four. But with favorable weather conditions, season-long yields could be near normal, said Sulc.

Damaged wheat and other small grains throughout Kansas, Oklahoma, Texas and other states were expected to be utilized as forage. USDA-Texas Department of Agriculture Market News reporters said some wheat growers in that state planned to bale their wheat and plant corn.

“This will put more hay in the marketing channels,” they wrote in the April 20 Weekly Texas Hay Report.