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Dry Weather Means Low Hay Supplies
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Hot, dry weather across most of the state for about a six-week period this summer slowed grass growth and hay production in Mississippi.
Dr. Lamar Kimbrough, Mississippi State University Extension Service forage specialist, said many of the state's hay producers have made fewer cuttings than normal due to the drought through June and early July.
"Much of the state got enough rain around July 12 to meet the moisture needs," Kimbrough said. "We made some hay after that, but we're running out of water again."
Just when the weather began to cooperate for hay producers, fall armyworms attacked.
"We've had the worst attack of fall armyworms that we've had in 20 years on hay crops and other pasture crops," Kimbrough said. "This has worsened the hay situation."
Some producers have had to feed through the summer the hay they cut earlier this year. This has led to concern that Mississippi may have hay shortages this winter, especially if dry weather prevents winter forages from being planted and getting established.
Dr. Charlie Forrest, Extension ag economist, said with cattle prices currently low, hay supplies will drive some producers to the market sooner than ideal.
"Low hay supplies limit producer's market alternatives. They may be forced to wean and sell their calves in this low market and may not be able to take advantage of potential improvements in the cattle market we're looking for later in the year," Forrest said.
Dr. Bill Tucker, supervisor of MSU's dairy farm, said dry weather in June kept grass from growing, but his area got enough rain from early July into the first part of August. Growers are cutting a lot of hay now, the last of the summer season, and breaking ground to plant the winter grasses.
"At a time when we need moisture, it's starting to dry up on us again," Tucker said.
The weather is good for curing the hay, but the quality of this last cutting is the lowest of the year as the grasses have begun to set seeds, Tucker said.
Bobby Fulcher, area Extension agent, said the Clarke County area has survived the summer quite well.
"We were a little short of hay on the first cutting because of the drought, but since then we've had adequate rainfall, and we've had some real good yields on hay," Fulcher said. "I think we'll have a 100 percent crop, and maybe a little more. That's not a bumper crop, but we'll have plenty of hay."
While Mississippi's hay producers have been hurt some by the summer's drought, Texas producers have been devastated. All 254 Texas counties were declared a disaster, with total losses to ranchers and farmers estimated at about $1.5 billion.
Mississippi Governor Kirk Fordice asked Mississippians with hay to spare to donate it to these producers. The Governor's Office is spearheading the project and will transport the donated hay to Texas. MSU's Extension Service is coordinating a collection site in each county. The Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce, Mississippi Farm Bureau Federation and the Mississippi Cattleman's Association all support the program.
"Other states have come to our aid whenever hurricanes, floods, tornadoes or other natural disasters have occurred in Mississippi," Fordice said in issuing the call for donations. "Texas farmers and ranchers have been devastated by drought. The time has come for us to be good neighbors and help those who are in dire straits."
Contact: Dr. Lamar Kimbrough, (601) 325-4077