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Recent Drought Threatens Hay
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Recent dry weather has been great for putting up winter hay, but it's slowed the growth of summer grasses and reduced its quality.
Dr. Bill Tucker, supervisor of the Mississippi State University dairy farm, said abnormal weather has made the first cutting of summer hay late this season.
"The weather has been hotter and drier than normal and our summer grasses have not come out as vigorously as they usually do," Tucker said.
Quality, as well as quantity, suffers as well when there is not enough moisture.
"Usually the hotter the weather, the higher the lignin content, which is a part of the fiber in the grass that the animals can't digest," Tucker said.
Mitchell Roberts, superintendent of on-campus research farms with the Mississippi Agricultural and Forestry Experiment Station, said the dry weather has made it possible to cut the winter grasses, but could hurt future cuttings.
"We're OK now, but if it continues to be hot and dry, the growth of our hay crop will slow down, so our next hay cutting will be short," Roberts said.
Kipp Brown, Carroll County agent with MSU's Extension Service, said spring started well for hay, with plenty of rain, but a cold snap around Easter set the grass growth back. The first hay cutting will likely be about a week late because of this delay.
"With the warm, warm weather, the grasses have really started growing and now we need some moisture," Brown said.
Rick Simmonds produces hay on about 100 acres in Noxubee County. He usually cuts the first hay of the year the first of June, but this year he'll have to wait until the second week.
"The soil is starting to run out of moisture," Simmonds said. "Normally the soil stays pretty wet until July and August, but if we don't get some rain, we'll have to start irrigating right after we cut the hay."
"Irrigating the grasses costs about $100 a day in fuel, labor and other expenses," Simmonds said. "All that's going to come of the profit end if we don't get some rain."
Hay producers across the state would like to see a few days of rain at the end of May, then dry weather to allow them to cut and put up the hay. More rain will be needed then to grow the second cutting.