Kentucky livestock producers need to inventory their hay supplies now to ensure they have enough to last through the winter, says Tom Keene, University of Kentucky hay marketing specialist. If they find they’re short, buying additional hay now can save them a lot of headaches later, Keene adds.

Due to dry conditions, a majority of the state’s livestock producers are already into their winter feeding programs. The good news is Kentucky forage producers had prime haymaking weather earlier this year and were able to get good yields due to adequate springtime moisture.

“During a normal season, we would have had a surplus of hay,” says Keene.

However, the timely rains diminished in July for some areas of the state and haven't returned in significant amounts in most places since then. About 90% of the state's pastureland is rated poor or very poor by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.

“Even if we got some much needed rain, it is unlikely that pastures will recover enough to provide very many grazing days before cold weather sets in during December and January,” he says. “So those currently feeding hay will probably be doing so through March of 2011.”

When calculating whether additional hay is needed, producers should consider their current supplies, how much they feed their livestock each day, and account for feeding and storage losses. If they have trouble determining these calculations, they can get assistance from their county Extension agent for agriculture and natural resources.

“By buying hay now, producers will have a bigger selection of quality hay, be more likely to find hay close to home and in the packaging they want,” he says. “The longer it’s put off, the more trouble producers will have meeting these criteria. The cost is also going to be better now.”

To get the most out of current hay supplies, producers should have their hay tested. The Kentucky Department of Agriculture offers a forage testing program.

“Hay testing helps producers feed the correct amount of hay with the right amount of supplements to meet their animals’ nutritional needs,” Keene says. “It can help producers feed hay more economically and efficiently.”

For more information on the Kentucky Department of Agriculture’s testing program or hay for sale across the state, visit http://www.kyagr.com/marketing/forage/index.htm.