Georgia hay growers are getting off to a dry start this year, reports Dennis Hancock, University of Georgia forage extension specialist. Temperatures have been exceptionally warm with two weeks of temperatures in the 80-degree range. "Initially we've been holding steady as we try to recover from a dry year last year," he states. "The spring rainfall has been short for us. This is not helping things as we try to revive some of our pastures from last year's drought." Hancock says while pasture conditions are fair, pastures have been stressed a bit more than normal. "We have put extra stress on our winter annuals just by virtue of not having a good year last year," he says. "The ryegrass and some of the other species we use for pasture are still available, and fortunately they still produce well, but we don't have the rain to sustain the supply we usually would have this time of year." Rye and ryegrass are coming on enough to allow producers to cut back on hay feeding. However, if it doesn't start raining soon, ryegrass production may be prematurely slowed.

Hay prices were exceptionally high in the state this winter. "It was not uncommon for hay prices to be up to twice what they would normally be in a given year," Hancock says. "The price varied tremendously across the state. It was very hard to find hay in the area. There was a lot of poor-quality hay fed and probably not enough supplementation."

Learn more about forages in Georgia at www.georgiaforages.com. Contact Hancock at 706-542-1529.