May 13, 2009

The cool, wet weather the state recently experienced was a mixed blessing for many hay producers.  The weather delayed some producers' first cuttings, but the cool temperatures and additional moisture were beneficial to hay quality and growth.

"As of right now, hay quality across the state is excellent," said Tom Keene, hay marketing specialist in the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture. "The wet weather should make for an abundant first cutting."

The rain was a welcome change for pastures stressed by the extremely dry summers of the past two years. Keene said the rain has made for healthier plants and pastures and allowed for additional growth while the cool temperatures have kept the hay from maturing too fast.

Many of the state's pastures that are an alfalfa-orchardgrass mix are mature now, but growers have been at a standstill because of wet conditions. Since hay needs adequate drying time before it can be baled or rolled, growers need four or five consecutive days of dry weather to make hay.

Fortunately, weather forecasts are looking more favorable for hay production. UK Agricultural Meterologist Tom Priddy said that while this week's forecast is calling for above normal temperatures and precipitation, weather conditions should return to normal toward the end of the month.

Many growers' are wondering when the state will get several consecutive dry days. While quality is not suffering now, it could begin to decline if hay is not cut in another couple of weeks. It could also limit the number of cuttings this season.

"It's really a wait-and-see situation now," Keene said. "We're in great shape. We just need to get some good weather."

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