Dry Weather Increases Demand For Available Hay

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (AP) - There's been no letup in demand for David
Glover's southern Kentucky hay crop from livestock producers with
stunted pastures and hungry herds.
"I've gotten calls from everywhere," said Glover, who on
Monday delivered a tractor-trailer load of alfalfa in Tennessee and
planned to haul another load to Alabama on Tuesday.
A drought in the Southeastern section of the United States
heightened demand for hay from producers like Glover. The downside
is that a double whammy of bad weather in Kentucky curtailed
production. First it was an April freeze, then a dry spell that
left Glover with only a third of his normal grass hay yield and
about half his usual alfalfa production.
"It's a half of crop, but the demand is unbelievable," Glover,
who farms in Todd and Christian counties near the Tennessee border,
said in a phone interview. "If you get it baled up, you don't have
any problem selling it."
In Kentucky, where 55 percent of the hay crop was rated poor or
very poor by a crop-reporting service, the state is trying to hook
up farmers needing hay with those selling it.
The state Department of Agriculture is offering a toll-free
"Hay Hotline" to connect buyers with sellers. Farmers calling the
number will be listed on the "Hay Hotline" page on the
department's Web site.
"These services could make the difference between holding on to
livestock or having to sell," state Agriculture Commissioner
Richie Farmer said in a release.
University of Kentucky officials estimate forage losses of $45
million statewide due to the spring freeze combined with drought.
Tom Keene, a hay marketing specialist with UK's College of
Agriculture, says hay yields averaged about 50 percent of normal
across Kentucky.
With smaller yields, hay prices have been on the rise amid
earlier-than usual demand.
The lack of rainfall dried up pastures, forcing some producers
to feed hay to their herds months sooner than normal. Recent rains
improved the situation somewhat, Keene said.
"These showers have helped some of the grass come on a little
bit," he said. "There's not that total sense of urgency that we
had in June."
Still, Kentucky pasture conditions were rated 55 percent poor or
very poor, according to a report issued Monday by the National
Agricultural Statistics Service's Kentucky field office. Another 33
percent of pastures were considered fair and 12 percent were in
good condition. Meanwhile, the state's hay crops was rated 36
percent poor, 36 percent fair, 22 percent very poor and just 6
percent good, the report said.
Despite the recent rains, all of Kentucky is in a severe
long-term drought except for central sections, which are in
moderate drought, said UK extension agricultural meteorologist Tom
Priddy, citing the Palmer Drought Index.
The rainfall did help crops, he said, but more precipitation is
Another complicating factor for cattle and horse owners is that
Kentucky's hay reserves were at their lowest levels in a
half-century, mainly because of strong demand last year from
farmers in the South, Keene said.
"Then with all the setbacks we had with the early April freeze
and then drought, we got behind the eight ball rather quickly," he
Producers could salvage another couple of alfalfa cuttings, and
some could get another grass hay cutting in the fall, with
favorable rains to help feed herds in winter, he said.
That's what cattle producers are hoping for in Barren County in
south-central Kentucky, said county agricultural extension agent
Gary Tilghman. "As it stands now, they're going to need some more
hay in many places to get through the winter," he said.
Ronnie Mann, a farmer in Grant County in northern Kentucky, said
he's sold about 7,500 bales of hay, mostly to horse owners, in
tandem with another hay producer. They have another 15,000 bales
for sale, but he doesn't expect the stockpile to last for long.
"At the rate it's going, it could be cleaned out in the next
month or six weeks," said Mann, whose hay yield was cut in half by
the freeze and dry spell.
Most of Glover's customers have been in states south of
Kentucky. He's charging $8 per bale, compared with $5 a year ago.
There's an additional charge if he delivers the hay.
Glover said the higher price won't pad his bottom line. Besides
sharply lower yields, he was hit with higher production costs for
fuel and fertilizer, he said.
"I made more money last year at $5 (per bale) than I'll make
this year at $8," he said.
Kentucky Department of Agriculture's Hay Hotline to be place on
the list: 1-888-567-9589.
Hay Hotline page on the Net:

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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