Hay supplies are holding steady through most of Tennessee as the winter progresses, reports Gary Bates, Extension forage specialist with the University of Tennessee (UT). “Up to this point, we haven’t had much in the way of harsh winter weather,” says Bates. “It’s been relatively warm, and we haven’t been plastered with snow. As a result, there hasn’t been a large push from livestock producers to go out and buy a lot of hay.”

Beef-quality hay prices are up slightly from year-ago levels. That probably has more to do with higher input prices – especially fertilizer prices – than with the overall supply-and-demand situation in the state, he says. “Over the last three to five years, fertilizer prices here have increased by 20-30%. Hay growers have to raise their prices accordingly.”

To hold a tighter rein on fertilizer costs, Bates encourages growers to consider planting more clovers to replace spring nitrogen and also to soil test regularly. “With fertilizer prices as high as they are, you want to make sure you’re putting on exactly what’s needed and no more. It’s the surest way to control your fertilizer bill.”

Bates reminds beef producers that the West Tennessee Grazing Conference is scheduled for March 19 at the West Tennessee Research and Education Center in Jackson. For more information, visit the UT Extension Forage Research Web site.

Contact Bates at 865-974-7208 or gbates@utk.edu.