The drought in the Southeast has livestock producers on a desperate search to find hay. "Lots of people have been or are selling cows," says Tom Keene, University of Kentucky hay marketing specialist. "Many of our Kentucky beef cattle producers are being forced to think outside of the box when it comes to feeding their livestock. Logistically, I don't think we could bring enough hay into the state to cover the feed needs we have." Kentucky's growing season started with the lowest hay carryover in recent memory. Four weeks of abnormally warm weather brought good early season forage growth. But an Easter weekend freeze damaged taller-growing legumes and new seedings, resulting in spring hay production that on average was 50% of normal. Then rainfall was below normal for two and a half consecutive months. Some rain in late June and early July helped pastures a bit, but the state is still very short on feed, Keene says. The economic consequences for livestock and hay producers are still being tallied. The University of Kentucky offers some economic estimates and a variety of resources in an online Drought Information page at www.uky.edu/Ag/Forage/Drought.htm.
Delta Farm Press reports similar difficult times in neighboring Tennessee as that state's livestock producers look for hay. Arkansas Secretary of Agriculture Dick Bell recently was asked by the Tennessee Department of Agriculture for help in locating hay for the Tennessee livestock industry. Arkansas producers with surplus hay are urged to enter their contact information on a computerized hay database at: hayproducers.uaex.edu/. Only Arkansas producers are allowed to enter hay information on this site; however, anyone looking for hay may access the information. Many other states have similar systems in place.
South Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture Hugh Weathers is urging those who have hay for sale and those who need hay to visit the USDA Farm Service Agency's eHayNet (www.fsa.usda.gov/FSA/webapp?area=online&subject=landing&topic=hay). It allows farmers in every state to share 'Need Hay' and 'Have Hay' ads online. Weathers suggests that producers in his state also check with local feed stores and extension offices, other livestock owners and hay brokers. Peter Wilkins, South Carolina Cattlemen's Association, is another contact for those who have or need cow hay. Contact Wilkins at 864-812-1837.
USDA recently designated 149 Georgia counties as primary natural disaster areas, too. The Georgia forages drought information page is at commodities.caes.uga.edu/fieldcrops/forages/drought.htm. Visit the Georgia Farm Bureau Hay Directory at www.gfb.org/comm/hay.htm.
Programs that help pay for transporting hay to and within North Carolina can be viewed at www.ncagr.com/HayAlert.