Plan now for seeding, hay production for max profit

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As winter remains to have a strong hold in the county, each day we inch closer to spring and warmer temperatures. In addition, we inch closer to seeding dates for a variety of forages for the upcoming growing season.

Cash hay sales can be an income source for many Ken-tucky farmers.  Check out these management tips that can help you generate the most profit from your hay enterprise from Dr. Garry Lacefield, University of Kentucky Extension Forage Specialist:

• Do extensive research on the market and your potential customers. Save some bales to show prospective customers or brokers the kind of product you can offer.

• Realistically assess your ability to procure labor on a timely basis.  Be sure you have labor lined up before committing to supply large quantities of hay.

• Base your estimated income on average, not high, market prices for hay. If you can succeed on average prices, you will be in great shape in years when prices are even better. Make a short list of equipment necessary to expand your production capacity and quickly get hay up. Be tight-fisted, but realistic, about the budget.

• Target the cleanest, densest and most weed-free fields as those most likely to be good enough for cash hay.

• Develop a plan to harvest the heaviest production first and in a timely fashion. This first harvest can be nearly 50 percent of your annual yield on good stands in good years.

• Work on storage to provide the capacity and access to the hay that you need.

• Consider establishing any new alfalfa fields as pure alfalfa and put grass in later. This will help you manage weeds that are hard or impossible to control in grass.

• Develop a plan to market hay that is off quality.  Opportunities include your own cattle, other beef herds or even as landscape mulch.

• Learn all you can about cash hay enterprises from the experts by talking to experienced growers and attending meetings of the Kentucky Cooperative Extension Service and other educational organizations and groups.

• Remember the hay business is a service operation. Your success may depend as much on what you are willing to do for the customer as what you can supply.

An excellent UK publication that every forage producer should have a copy of is AGR-18: Grain and Forage Crop Guide for Kentucky.  This publication includes information a wide variety of forages that we see in Kentucky. Information in this publication includes seeding dates, rates, and depths, as well as approximate first harvest dates, approximate yields and general comments specific to each forage crop. Stop by the Extension office to pick up your copy.

To learn more about forage production, please contact the Carroll County Cooperative Extension Service at (502) 732-7030.

Dates of interest

Feb. 17: Private Pesticide Applicator Certification, 1:30 p.m. or 6:30 p.m., Carroll County Extension Office.

Feb. 17: Carroll County Extension District Board Meeting, 5p.m., Carroll County Extension Office.

Feb. 20: Master Stocker, Session two of eight, health management, 6:30 p.m., Carroll County Extension Office.


Christin Herbst is the Carroll County Extension agent for agriculture and natural resources. Call her at (502) 732-7030 or send e-mail to Christin.Herbst@uky.edu.