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One more hay cutting?

Jeff Caldwell 08/15/2011 @ 2:10pm Multimedia Editor for Agriculture.com and Successful Farming magazine.

If your hay crop has been stressed this summer by heat and a lack of rainfall, you might be worried that your stands next year could pay the price if you take a fall cutting to stock up on feed for the winter.

But, considering existing hay shortages, you're better off taking a final late-summer or early fall cutting "when it is ready," says one forage specialist.

"Unlike most other crops, alfalfa actually stores root reserves at the onset of drought conditions," says Pennsylvania State University forage specialist Marvin Hall. "These extra root reserves allow for more aggressive harvesting in the fall without greatly increasing the risk of stand loss."

The summer drought may have actually made your crop better able to bounce back after a later cutting, he adds.

"Any fall harvest increases the possibility for stand loss compared with not harvesting, but a summer drought will minimize that risk," Hall says.

This year's supply and demand situation, specifically for alfalfa, makes it even more important to get all the hay you can off your acres, especially the way the market has been lately.

"Since hay production in 2010 was already insufficient to meet demand and this year’s hay acreage is even smaller, don’t expect prices to drop significantly in the near future since demand is going to continue to outpace supply, especially for high quality hay," Hall adds.

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