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Hay Production

Casper – After moving through long litigation processes, both glyphosate-resistant, alfalfa and sugarbeets are still moving ahead toward planting and production, though alfalfa seems to have the most optimistic future.
On Dec. 16, 2010, the USDA announced that the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for glyphosate-resistant, or Roundup Ready, alfalfa had been completed, and the agency described the pathways for future planning.
“The EIS supported the original conclusion of USDA APHIS, and found no reasonable likelihood of harm. We came through that nice and clean,” said Jeff Tichota of Monsanto at the 2011 Wyoming Recertification Rendezvous held in Casper mid-January and hosted by UW, the Wyoming Weed Management Association and the Wyoming Department of Agriculture.
The next step for Roundup Ready alfalfa involves the Secretary of Agriculture finding a way for genetically modified and non-genetically modified organisms (GMOs) to coexist in crop production.
“Monsanto and Forage Genetics are getting ready to offer Roundup Ready alfalfa again, as soon as the USDA makes a decision about deregulation,” said Tichota. “That deregulation will come with a set of guidelines on how we’ll get along with those folks who want non-GMO production, and we think that will happen in the next 30 days. We’re hopeful that Roundup Ready alfalfa will be offered to growers for spring 2011 production.”
On whether or not more litigation could keep Roundup Ready alfalfa tied in up court even longer, Tichota said, “This has been decided by the Supreme Court, so the litigation is over and done. The Supreme Court said the USDA has completed everything they need to, except figuring out how the GMO and non-GMO producers will get along. Unless they sit on their hands and don’t do anything, I think it should come out of there.”
Tichota said that anytime there’s a GMO event that comes out in a crop, whether it’s alfalfa, sugarbeets, corn, soybeans or cotton, there will be a group to challenge it.
“They will look for a sympathetic court in California, and that will at least force the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and USDA to make sure they’ve done what they need to,” he stated. “The safety of glyphosate has gone through the EPA’s re-registration process, and it’s been looked at in tremendous detail. We’ve been in Roundup Ready crops for 15 years now, so we have a long track record, and there’s no indication of the likelihood of glyphosate to harm people or animals.”
Responding to a question on how much seedstock is leftover from before the restrictions, and what that means for Wyoming’s alfalfa seed producers, Tichota said, “A lot of seed companies have Roundup Ready seed. When this lawsuit, and one judge, shut this down, all that seed went back on the shelf and has been sitting in the warehouse. We know it’s been there at least two years, and any company that sells alfalfa seed will want it to have good germ and good performance, and they’ll do the appropriate testing to make sure the growers are satisfied. We could have everything from a mountain of Roundup Ready seed that the companies feel is good to go, or it could be a tiny pile.”
Tichota said he expects the coexistence between Roundup Ready and non-GMO producers to include buffers and isolation, and looking at things like how far a bee will travel to pollinate.
On whether the coexistence restrictions will apply to all Roundup Ready growers, including forage producers, or just seed production, Tichota said, “Places like Powell and Oregon, which produce a lot of seed, will be the most scrutinized and locked down, and I suspect a lot of areas of forage production will be free to go. We’ll just have to know who our neighbors are.”
“If there is a Roundup Ready alfalfa producer next to a non-GMO grower, USDA will decide how they’ll get along, and we’ll all have to comply with whatever that looks like. I’m hopeful we’ll have a reasonable situation where we can produce both non-GMO and Roundup Ready alfalfa,” he said.
Christy Martinez is managing editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

“The hay market has been pretty soft,” comments Barry McRea of Valley Video Hay Markets in Torrington. “It doesn’t look like there will be much change in the near future.”

Unless Mother Nature intervenes, he predicts that prices will remain steady.

“The only thing that would change the prices would be a drought, but at this point, we can’t tell,” he says.

Some areas of Oklahoma and Kansas are starting to look dry, according to the U.S. drought monitor, but it is still too early in the season to know how the weather will affect the market.

“The balance of inventory is mostly feeder hay but there isn’t much demand for it,” he adds.

Any producers who still have extra hay may have to wait until next season for it to sell.

“There is always good demand for premium hay, but there isn’t much of that left,” McRea continues.

Open market and new crop hay will likely be sent toward Texas or the Midwest, to states such as Iowa, Indiana and Illinois.

“This year, the bulk of our premium hay went to Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin,” notes McRea.

Hay is often shipped to Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas, and there is also usually a strong demand in New Mexico, although there wasn’t as much demand in that part of the country this past year.

“We always send some to Colorado,” he adds.

Some areas of the United States are more deficient than others from year to year, depending on conditions.

“Generally, people looking for feeder or ranch hay purchase from local markets,” explains McRea, although his business caters to buyers across the country. “If there is a drought area, for example in Texas or Kansas, we can serve those areas with our internet auction.”

Valley Video Hay Auctions holds a sale once every two weeks throughout the summer and fall.

“People can use the internet to see our hay bi-weekly all year, without having to come through town,” he adds.

For McRea, this is an advantage over representatives or brokers who can only visit specific parts of the country once or twice a year.

“We offer hay backed by the reputation of our growers,” he comments.

As spring approaches, McRea talks to his customers across the country to find out about conditions throughout the U.S.

“This time of year, we are touching base with our previous customers to see where demand is,” he explains.

McRea’s inventory comes mainly from western Nebraska and eastern Wyoming. He also sells hay in the Riverton area.

“Our hay is premium hay because of our drier climate with less humidity,” he explains.

Many areas in the eastern U.S. have trouble putting up high-quality hay because of the challenges associated with high moisture content in the air.

“With the news we have today, prices don’t look like they will vary much from last year,” says McRea.

However, he warns that conditions can transition quickly. Humidity and rainfall can affect the conditions of the market in a short period of time.

“Rain or no rain in different parts of the country can change conditions fast,” McRea states. “Within a matter of weeks, things can change drastically.”

Natasha Wheeler is editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be contacted at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Douglas – The Wyoming Hay Show wrapped up with great results at the 2008 Wyoming State Fair. Nearly 100 exhibitors entered hay in 10 classes featuring alfalfa, mixed, grass hay and hay cubes.
    The Premier Exhibitor is Ervin Gara of Torrington. Gara brought in 11 samples, eight of alfalfa and three of grass. Gara says his success was just about getting lucky, but it’s evident that experience and hard work play a role in his quality hay. He also attributes part of the success to his eight employees, who he says are ready to act when the hay is just right to bale.
    “It was about Mother Nature and the luck of the draw coming together,” says Gara.
    Gara has shown in the Wyoming Hay Show for four years and placed at the top of the alfalfa class two years ago. His samples were then sent on to the World Dairy Expo, where he won World Forage Producer.
    Scott Keith, livestock and forage program manager for the Wyoming Business Council, headed up the hay show. He says the show’s purpose is to showcase Wyoming’s hay crop and alfalfa is the predominant entry due to its popularity among hay producers in the state.
    Several other outstanding entries were recognized at this year’s hay show. Dave Greer from Big Horn County won Best of Show. Keith says the Best of Show category is the hardest to judge because it is the highest quality hay among all categories.
    Greer also topped out with Champion Alfalfa Hay and Gara came in Reserve Champion Alfalfa Hay. Champion Mixed Hay went to David Hinman of Platte County and Reserve Champion Mixed Hay was given to Danny Tadewald of Niobrara County. Champion Grass Hay went to Gerry Danko from Park County and Reserve Champion Grass Hay went to Gara. Two hay cube entries were also represented at this year’s show with Jim Woodward coming in as Champion and Shirley Woodward receiving Reserve Champion.
    Liz LeSatz is the 2008 Summer Intern for the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
    The Johnson County office of the University of Wyoming Cooperative Extension Service has been conducting a cool-season perennial grass hay trial at two area ranches since 2004.
    The purpose is to evaluate the long-term hay production potential of Luna and Mandan pubescent wheatgrass, NewHy hybrid wheatgrass, Rosana western wheatgrass, Critana thickspike wheatgrass, Hycrest crested wheatgrass, Bozoisky Russian wildrye, Manchar smooth bromegrass, and Regar meadow bromegrass and determine if production costs associated with these grasses might be lower than that for alfalfa.
    Alfalfa provides good hay yields its first few years of production, but, as stands age, yields decline and weed problems increase. For alfalfa fields to remain productive, they have to be periodically farmed. This usually entails plowing the alfalfa and planting an annual forage crop such as oats or millet for a couple of years before the field is planted back to alfalfa. If cool-season perennial grasses are able to produce hay yields comparable to alfalfa but for more years, overall costs for hay production could be lowered. In addition, grass hay fields could also be grazed without fear of bloat providing more management flexibility to livestock producers.
    Plots of the above grasses were established in irrigated fields, previously in alfalfa, at two ranches in 2003 with harvests occurring in late June 2004 to 2007. The trials were on Larry Vignaroli’s ranch along Lower Clear Creek northeast of Buffalo and on a ranch on Lower Piney Creek northeast of Buffalo near the Johnson-Sheridan County line that is leased by Ray Daly.
    Spring precipitation in 2005 and 2007 was sufficient to forego irrigation at both locations, but, due to the dry conditions in 2004 and 2006, irrigation water was applied in late May 2004 and early June 2006 at Daly’s and in late May 2006 at Vignaroli’s. Because the surrounding field at Vignaroli’s was to be planted to millet in 2004, irrigation did not occur until July.
    For cool-season grasses to produce comparable yields to alfalfa, application of a nitrogen fertilizer is needed. At Daly’s, 100 pounds of nitrogen per acre was applied on April 19, 2005, May 19, 2006, and May 9, 2007, and, at Vignaroli’s, 30 and 100 pounds per acre on May 12, 2006, and May 1, 2007, respectively.
    Grass hay yields at Daly’s averaged 2.1, 3.6, 2.4, and 3.0 tons per acre in 2004, 2005, 2006, and 2007, respectively, and, at Vignaroli’s, 1.7, 2.1, 2.0, and 3.6 tons per acre. The lower yields at Vignaroli’s, except in 2007, was probably due to no irrigation prior to harvest in 2004, no nitrogen fertilizer in 2005, and 70 pounds per acre less nitrogen in 2006. The higher yields in 2007 at Vignaroli’s may have been due to nitrogen fertilizer being applied a week earlier.
    Weekly harvests of the grasses at Daly’s in 2005, 2006, and 2007 beginning the end of April for a grazing simulation study has shown these grasses enter their fast growth phase in mid-May. If adequate soil moisture is not present at that time, growth of the grasses and resultant hay yields will be reduced. The lower average hay yields of the grasses in 2006 compared to 2005 and 2007 at Daly’s supports this. In addition, if nitrogen fertilizer is to be applied, it probably needs to occur by early May for the grasses to take full advantage of it.
    June 2004-2007 hay yields of Luna and Mandan pubescent wheatgrass, Hycrest crested wheatgrass, NewHy hybrid wheatgrass, Manchar smooth bromegrass, and Regar meadow bromegrass averaged 2.9 tons per acre for the two locations, and 1.9 tons per acre for Bozoisky Russian wildrye, Rosana western wheatgrass, and Critana thickspike wheatgrass.
    If 2007 yields are not included, the averages are 2.6 and 1.6 tons per acre, respectively. Alfalfa hay yields for 2004, 2005, and 2006 for Johnson and Sheridan counties averaged 2.5 tons per acre.
    The potential for some of these grasses to be used for hay production in lieu of alfalfa looks promising; however, costs of production and price per ton received needs to be calculated to make a final determination. The study will continue for another six years, possibly more, to document any decline in stand of any of the grasses as stand longevity impacts establishment costs.
    At this time, I would recommend a meadow bromegrass for hay production because they provide good hay yields and regrowth if used for grazing and more flexibility with regard to harvesting hay with respect to palatability. The pubescent wheatgrasses may yield as much as the meadow bromes but, if harvested at maturity, they do not seem to be as palatable.
Research results should be applicable to eastern Wyoming and possibly the state as a whole but definitely the northeast.
    Additional study results can be accessed via Horn is a UW CES educator specializing in forages and rangeland and livestock management serving Johnson and Sheridan counties. He is based in Buffalo.

Riverton – In mid-July, representatives from the international hay exporting company ACX Pacific Northwest visited producers in Fremont County to establish relationships and look at alfalfa hay in the area.
“I was told the United Arab Emirates are reaching a point where they are thinking about conserving their natural, higher quality water for human food production rather than forage production. If they do that, ACX will export over half a million tons of hay just to them,” explains Wyoming Business Council Crop and Forage Program Manager Donn Randall. “It could go up to almost four million tons in exports if other countries in the Mideast do the same thing. There’s no way ACX will be able to meet that demand without establishing additional markets. That’s why they’re here – to establish relationships and visit with producers and look at the hay.”
ACX Chief Marketing Officer Micahel Gombos Jr. and Vice President Chris Carrow were the representatives who visited Fremont County. Their company supplies forage and roughage products to Japan, Korea, China, the United Arab Emirates and other global destinations. ACX has been in business for three generations – 32 years total – and, according to company information, is the only U.S. hay exporter with hay processing and storage facilities in all major growing regions of the western U.S.
Area producer Mike Febrizius organized the tour to show Gombos and Carrow a sampling of hay in the area. Lab test results were provided for hay, and Carrow and Gombos performed personal inspections as well.
“My expertise is alfalfa and I’m here to judge the quality of the hay,” explains Carrow. “The clean alfalfa we’ve seen is good. It has a good visual appearance and some of the tests I’ve seen are good. The protein levels are a little lower than we like to see, but the taste of the hay is good.
“There are two sides to it – you have the analytical side and the art side. Then you have to ask if you have a customer for the hay. Everybody can buy hay that tests really high, but it’s about who can buy hay that doesn’t test as high but looks good and find the right customer for it. That’s what we do – match hay with customers,” explains Carrow.
“When Chris is looking at a stack of hay he’s not only thinking about what country it could go to, but specifically what buyer. Our job is matching hay to buyers,” adds Gombos.
ACX typically takes possession of the hay and generally deals with producers directly, with the occasional hay broker thrown in. They densify the product at one of their three processing plants prior to shipping it all over the world.
“We work with bookings and have a tremendous amount of storage at each plant location. We take possession of the cargo and are typically dealers, not brokers where we do back to back business.
ACX has processing plants in Ellensburg, Wash., Wasco, Calif. and one just outside the ports of Los Angeles, Calif. The L.A. location has the least amount of storage, at approximately 10,000 tons. Between 30 and 40 trucks of product are hauled to the ports daily from that location. Gombos notes that ACX has built inventory and one reason for that is ocean freight.
“It’s a big problem right now. It’s expensive and unreliable. They lost billions and billions of dollars in the last couple years and they are jacking prices up and cutting service back to create demand,” he explains.
When looking at hay in a new area, ACX prefers to take time to meet producers and see the product first hand. As they look at alfalfa they are constantly considering what products can go into the export market.
“In the first couple of trips to a new area, someone from the company will have to come and look at the hay. Then we will start looking at people in the area that are reputable and have the same eyes for hay as we do and are on the same page ethically. Those are very important things and they take time to establish,” says Gombos.
“It’s a step-by-step relationship building process,” adds Carrow.
“We don’t expect to do a tremendous amount of business here this year. We would like to some, but we want to do be doing business here in a bigger way 10 years from now as our third-generation guys come in,” explains Gombos.
“We’ve increased exports out of Wyoming by 2,200 tons, which equates to a little over a quarter million dollars in additional sales, just since last October,” notes Randall of Wyoming’s production. “This would be a great opportunity for producers who produce the necessary quality of hay.”
The Fremont County visit was ACX’s first trip to Wyoming. Another tour in Lincoln County, which is the fourth largest hay producing county in the state, is tentatively scheduled for late August or early September.
“Fremont County is the number one hay producing county. Lincoln, at number four, surprised me a little. Historically, a lot of that valley was dairies and they had two cheese factories. With the out-of-staters moving in and buying it up, the price of property has gone up and forced a lot of those little dairies out of business, but they still raise a lot of alfalfa and don’t currently have a market for it,” explains Randall.
“We’ve been doing this for 32 years. The first guy I ever met in the Japanese market 32 years ago is someone we still do business with. Taking the time to establish these relationships and meet with producers and see the hay is important to us,” adds Gombos.
Following the tour Gombos and Carrow met with more area producers over dinner in Riverton to answer questions and establish additional relationships.
For more information on ACX Pacific Northwest, visit Heather Hamilton is editor of the Wyoming Livestock Roundup and can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..