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Drought has forage and hay growers concerned for this fall, winter

The Kansas Ag Summit Feed and Forage breakout session talks challenges and opportunities.

Jennifer M. Latzke, Editor

August 25, 2022

3 Min Read
Hay being baled
DROUGHT: The current drought in southwest Kansas has reduced the amount of alfalfa and other forage production in the state. That could lead to trouble this fall and winter, as producers are already dipping into their stocks to feed livestock through the drought. KKIDD/Getty Images

It’s been a hot and dry summer for many parts of Kansas, but especially for the southwest corner of the state. Dry conditions have led to a major decrease in alfalfa production in 2022, and that could lead to challenges for livestock producers this fall and winter.

Kim Nettleton is the hay market reporter for the Kansas Department of Agriculture. She and others spoke during the online Feed and Forage Sector breakout session held prior to the 2022 Kansas Agriculture Growth Summit. She said the farmers she talks to haven’t seen drought effects this bad in a decade.

“Acres were down to begin with and then, with the drought, the cuttings are shorter and we just aren’t getting the tons of alfalfa that we would in a normal year — whatever that is these days,” she said. That drought also affected pastures and grass production, leading to cattle producers and dairy producers turning to baled forage to feed their herds earlier than usual. That’s led to higher priced hay market, she added.

Pat Barry, with Forage Genetics International, an alfalfa research company, says Kansas also continues to attract dairies from California and other states, which creates a higher demand for alfalfa as well.

At the end of July, and on into August, Nettleton said she was seeing a stall in hay movement among the sellers who contribute sales reports to KDA. “They’re either stockpiling it for their own use, or they just don’t have it, so as soon as they get it, it’s gone,” she said.

Stocks already depleted

We already have depleted stocks, and we’re going into the hottest and driest part of the year, which is concerning, she added. The story is the same for brome, prairie grass, even sudangrass and triticale, she said. Third-cutting production this summer is half of what it normally is this time of year, and that’s going to push production down even further.

On the other hand, the drought may push more corn into silage stocks, which can fill that demand.

The key part of the Kansas Ag Summit is identifying challenges, opportunities and priorities for each sector of the state’s economy, and how they might be addressed.

The feed and forage sector continues to be challenged not only by weather and reduced acres for alfalfa or grass hay, but also by the high costs of inputs and supply chain logistics.

There are some opportunities for the sector, though, to use technology and innovation to promote the message that alfalfa and other forage crops have a strong role to play in carbon sequestration. Overall, the sector’s stakeholders would like to see enhanced risk management options for forages, especially in light of the drought conditions they faced this year. They’d also like to see more Kansas State University Research and Extension forage personnel, and more funding for feed and forage research.

To see the full breakout session recording, visit youtube.com/watch?v=T3Gy3OXVz_o.

And to see materials from this sector session and others, visit agriculture.ks.gov/aggrowthstrategy/ag-summit-2022.

About the Author(s)

Jennifer M. Latzke

Editor, Kansas Farmer

Through all her travels, Jennifer M. Latzke knows that there is no place like Kansas.

Jennifer grew up on her family’s multigenerational registered Angus seedstock ranch and diversified farm just north of Woodbine, Kan., about 30 minutes south of Junction City on the edge of the Kansas Flint Hills. Rock Springs Ranch State 4-H Center was in her family’s backyard.

While at Kansas State University, Jennifer was a member of the Sigma Kappa Sorority and a national officer for the Agricultural Communicators of Tomorrow. She graduated in May 2000 with a bachelor’s degree in agricultural communications and a minor in animal science. In August 2000 Jennifer started her 20-year agricultural writing career in Dodge City, Kan., on the far southwest corner of the state.

She’s traveled across the U.S. writing on wheat, sorghum, corn, cotton, dairy and beef stories as well as breaking news and policy at the local, state and national levels. Latzke has traveled across Mexico and South America with the U.S. Wheat Associates and toured Vietnam as a member of KARL Class X. She’s traveled to Argentina as one of 10 IFAJ-Alltech Young Leaders in Agricultural Journalism. And she was part of a delegation of AAEA: The Ag Communicators Network members invited to Cuba.

Jennifer’s an award-winning writer, columnist, and podcaster, recognized by the Kansas Professional Communicators, Kansas Press Association, the National Federation of Presswomen, Livestock Publications Council, and AAEA. In 2019, Jennifer reached the pinnacle of achievements, earning the title of “Writer of Merit” from AAEA.

Trips and accolades are lovely, but Jennifer says she is happiest on the road talking to farmers and ranchers and gathering stories and photos to share with readers.

“It’s an honor and a great responsibility to be able to tell someone’s story and bring them recognition for their work on the land,” Jennifer says. “But my role is also evolving to help our more urban neighbors understand the issues our Kansas farmers face in bringing the food and fiber to their store shelves.”

She spends her time gardening, crafting, watching K-State football, and cheering on her nephews and niece in their 4-H projects. She can be found on Twitter at @Latzke.

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