July 18, 2007 | By: Aimee Nielson

No doubt about it, experts agree the current drought situation is wreaking havoc on Kentucky’s pastures and hay fields from Paducah to Pikeville. 

Ray Smith, University of Kentucky extension forage specialist said that most farmers depend on the period from May through June for highest hay production. With the Easter freeze dealing a low blow just prior to that peak time and now the current drought conditions, he said producers are experiencing a “double whammy” and looking at mostly brown fields.

With that in mind, hay is going to be a hot commodity in Kentucky and the thirsty Southeast this year. Even with recent rains in parts of the state, UK College of Agriculture Hay Specialist Tom Keene said he expects demand to be “higher than I can ever remember.”
Keene said farmers can expect hay prices to remain high and continue to rise throughout the rest of the year.

“Producers and sellers nationwide are well aware of the situation in Kentucky and other drought-stricken areas,” he said. “Producers would be well-served to source their hay early and acquire quantities necessary to carry them through until May of 2008.”

Keene said current prices on midsize square bales of 140 to 150 RFV (relative feed value) hay delivered into Kentucky from outside the state is somewhere between $140 and $175 per ton. 

“Small square bales of good horse hay are bringing more than $200 per ton,” he continued. “Locally grown round bales are easily bringing $80 per ton or maybe even more.”

In an effort to help Kentucky farmers in this uncertain time, Keene and others at UK are working with representatives of the Kentucky Department of Agriculture to outline a plan of action. 

“We have set up a ‘hay hotline’ where farmers could get information about sourcing or selling hay via a toll-free phone number and via the Internet,” he said. “Listings on the site will give Kentucky hay sellers first priority and then go on to list hay for sale in other states. The site will link to ‘hay hotlines’ in other states as well as to producers who are aligned with the National Hay Association, the Nebraska Alfalfa Marketing Association, etc.”

The number for the hotline is 888-567-9589 and the web site is http://www.kyagr.com/marketing/forage/HayForageDroughtRelief.htm. Keene said the effort is a “work in progress.” He said KDA will contact the National Hay Association and ask that they make their members aware of Kentucky’s need and encourage them to list their hay on the Web site. 

“KDA is also going to contact other state departments of agriculture around the country and ask them to let their producers know of our need for hay,” Keene said. “Hopefully, state hay organizations and producers nationwide will participate in our effort to help Kentucky farmers ‘stretch’ their hay inventories for this year. The hay that KDA currently tests will also be linked to this site as you can see when you go there.”

Keene said they also hope to have a link on the site in order to help producers source commodity feeds such as dried distiller’s grain and soybean hulls.

He encouraged Kentucky producers to think ahead about their hay situation and to check a few already established Web sites such as http://www.nebraska-alfalfa.com;http://www.haybarn.comhttp://www.hayexchange.comhttp://www.hayforsale.net andhttp://www.nationalhay.org.


Tom Keene, 859-257-3144, Ray Smith, 859-257-3358