Drought: Kentucky Hay Supply Up but Not Back to Normal

Even though the majority of the state is in the midst of a drought, hay supplies in Kentucky are up from last year. However, some livestock producers will still need to find an additional hay source to get through the winter, said Tom Keene, hay marketing specialist with the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture.

"Overall, we are in decent to fair shape on cattle hay going into the winter," he said. "Producers who use high quality hay to feed dairy cattle and horses will likely need to import additional quantities this year to have a sufficient supply."

The wet spring rejuvenated pastures recovering from last year's drought. This much-needed moisture helped the forages develop and allowed producers to get in early first and second cuttings.

"With hay being so hard to come by last year, most farmers that had any hay went ahead and made it early to get as much quality hay as they could," Keene said.

Since hay supplies on high quality alfalfa grass mix are low, Keene encouraged producers that need this type of hay to go ahead and line up their sources. Hay prices are up nationwide and producers should be prepared for sticker shock when looking to import hay from other states, he said.

Once the state gets some rain, producers might want to take measures to help their pastures recover from the most recent drought. Producers should consider applying nitrogen to their fields to help them recover and give them a boost going into winter. Fertilizing pastures to stimulate root growth, tillering, and giving the fields another fertilizer application in the spring will also help improve 2009 pasture and hay yields. While this might seem excessive, especially with nitrogen costs being so high, Keene said some pastures may need the additional boost to produce quality forage.

"The pastures have now been through two droughts in the past two years and need a little TLC," he said.

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