We all know hay production in the Midwest is unpredictable at best, and this year is no exception. If you did not start tracking down your next load, it might be time. Here are some quick tips to see you through the lean times:
1. ORDER EARLY: Hay will be at premium come fall. Best to get your order in now, and even put a deposit down to hold your order before the competition becomes fierce and the supply dries up.
2. WAITING LIST: Is your supplier already tapped out? Get on any waiting list you can find and start looking up old suppliers. It never hurts to over-prepare.
3. HARVEST DORMANT PASTURES: Know someone with unused pastures or fields? Consider asking them if you, or someone you know, can bale it for hay. They may enjoy the reprieve from brush hogging, but don’t expect this hay to be of the same quality as the standard hay you feed. Be sure to have it tested. Some feed stores will do this for you at no cost.
4. SLOW FEEDER: Use a slow feeder. As much as 50% of your forage will go to waste when fed on the ground. Hay nets will prevent some waste, but a slow feeder keeps hay from dropping to the floor and is your best bet. With hay prices expected to jump, wasted hay could leave a shortfall in the budget.
5. RATION BALANCERS: Add money to the budget for ration balancers. Not only will hay supply be limited, but expect nutritional values in the hay to be lower. The rain has not allowed producers to harvest on time, reducing vital nutrition. Some fields may even lose their second cutting altogether, putting a more significant strain on supply.