Wherever you go and whomever you ask, the answer is the same. Hay production is down about 50% from normal. And especially in southern Indiana, where growing forage was killed by the late April freeze, and later included in hay bales after regrowth, quality fo the forage may be down.
This was confirmed when I judged open class crops at the Scott County Fair last week. Almost every sample of hay brought in for competition contained some dead material inside the flake of hay exhibited. That's unusual, especially in alfalfa hay in a contest. Scott County is about 70 miles south of Indianapolis and 30 miles north of Louisville, Ky.
Meanwhile, hay suppliers who usually make a living baling and selling hay, almost everyone of them, say they simply won't be able to meet the needs of all their customers this year. Prices as high as $7 per small square bale may sound attractive to sellers, but not if they don't have the product to sell. And it's a brewing nightmare for people with horses and farmers with ruminant livestock.
One solution for livestock producers needing forage for themselves is to look for alternatives to hay and typical forage supplies. The Indiana Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative recently published a newsletter, compiled by Ed Heckman, to help summarize some of those ideas. Heckman, Richmond, is a retired Extension ag educator, last serving in Wayne County, and has developed his own clearinghouse for forage and grazing information.
Firs ton the list of ideas is to contact your county Farm Service Agency office to see if your county has been declared legal to be a part of the Emergency and Managed Hay and Grazing of CRP acres program. If that permission is granted, you may have access to forage from your own CRP acres, or perhaps from a neighbor who has CRP acres on his farm. It's likely to be low quality forage, Heckman notes, but could be supplemented with a small amount of energy and protein for dry stock or other non-lactating ruminants. Before you touch an acre, however, check with YOUR county FSA office first! Get the OK in writing!
A second tip is taking advantage of fallow wheat acres not doublecropped to beans, or other land lying idle for whatever reason. Sudex, derived from sudangrass, can be seeded now and pastured late, as long as it isn't pastured immediately after a hard freeze. Another suggestion from Heckman is seeding spring oats at 2 bushels per acre along with forage turnips at 2 pounds per acre. Seeding is possible form now through early September.
Expect to harvest it as silage or to graze it. It would be tough to dry it enough this time of year to harvest it as hay. You may want to limit graze the oats and turnips mix because it is a high quality forage, or include it in a regimen where cattle also are fed or graze on corn stalks after harvest. This feedstuff could be used all the way through winter and into early spring.