Glen Leduc is just one of many farmers who traveled to Iowa from another state to attend the 2012 Hay Expo at the Central Iowa Expo site June 20-21 near Boone. Farmers like Leduc, who raises 200 acres of hay near Edwardsville, Ill., came from parts of the United States where hay production is crucial to other sectors of agriculture — usually horse owners and dairy farmers. “Hay is my specialty crop,” says Leduc. “I have a passion for hay.”
Although central Iowa isn’t known for hay production, the number of farmers attending this year’s expo from other parts of Iowa and from out of state surpassed the five-year average, says Matt Jungmann, Farm Progress national events manager. “The crowd was excellent and was very interested in hay and forage,” he says.
The central location was part of the reason for these numbers. Jungmann says many already know the location because of the Farm Progress Show. The Hay Expo lets farmers see mowers, forage harvesters, balers and rakes in action. “It’s such a unique event for folks in the hay and forage industry,” he adds. “This is equipment you almost never see together operating under the same conditions.”
• Attendance numbers at the 2012 Hay Expo held in Iowa exceeded five-year average.
• Visitors came from Iowa, nearby states and as far away as California.
• Farmers came to see machinery, learn about improving hay quality, and network.
This was Leduc’s first time at the Farm Progress Hay Expo, and he was impressed. The expo allowed him and other producers to network and find information. “I talked with people who are very experienced and up to date on hay production and technology,” he says. A member of the National Hay Association, Leduc makes three to five cuttings a year and supplies eight dairy farms in his region. “I know what a dairy farmer expects,” he says. “We understand what it takes to put up high-quality hay, and that’s why dairy farmers buy from us.”
Farmers like Leduc have their hands full due to the drop in milk prices, a decline in the dairy hay market in 2009, a decrease in the popularity of horses, and dry weather’s impact on hay moisture and production. “It’s a demanding business,” he says. “But I have done this for over 30 years.”
One thing that helps him sustain his cash hay operation is his separate company, Farmers & Merchant Seed. “I want to still be a family farmer, but I need to be in this related business to succeed,” he says. This originated after networking with other producers at conferences, particularly with the National Hay Association, Leduc notes. “Networking is helpful, particularly to sell hay to markets that are located farther away,” he says.
Some farmers at the expo haven’t been in the cash hay business as long as Leduc. But they look at it as a value-added enterprise that can put their labor resource to good use. Eli Landgraf has helped his dad raise hay and work on the dairy farm since he was young. He started his own operation near Jackson, Mo., when he graduated from high school seven years ago.
Like southern Illinois, southern Missouri has been hot and dry this year, resulting in dry hay. Landgraf says this is one of the most difficult challenges in hay production, as growers are in a constant battle with moisture levels to produce high-quality hay. “It goes from too moist to too dry very quickly,” he says.
Quality hay in high demand
Landgraf resides in a prime area for dairy and relies heavily on hay. While he has 100 head of Brown Swiss cows, milking them twice daily, he also provides hay to 25 other dairy farmers in a two-county area, ranging from 80 to 350 cows per farm. “Good hay is in high demand,” he says, noting a drop in supply as a factor. “Everybody’s hay down there is just half of what it should be because of the drought.”
Jay Mayland, from Buffalo Center in northern Iowa, has grown hay for 15 years. “It’s a good cash crop,” he says. He usually devotes 8% to 9% of his land to hay. “You’ve just got to get your market set up.” In Mayland’s case, setting up a market can mean selling hay to people outside the area and sometimes renting land. “We mainly sell our hay to horse people.”
As a custom forage harvester who also does some baling, usually producing small square bales, Mayland attended the expo to see innovations in equipment, especially the new forage harvesters.
Harris is a Wallaces Farmer intern.
HAY PRICES: Growers attending the recent 2012 Farm Progress Hay Expo at Boone in central Iowa say hay is becoming more valuable. Pastures are parched by drought in a large part of the Midwest this summer, and hay production has taken a hit, too.
DAIRY HAY: Hay producer Glen Leduc came from Edwardsville, Ill., to the Hay Expo in Iowa. “We strive to produce quality hay for our dairy customers,” says the southern Illinois grower.
HORSE HAY: Jay Mayland of Buffalo Center grows hay for horse owners, often reaching outside his local area to sell to that market. “A lot of it goes about 80 miles from home,” he says.
This article published in the July, 2012 edition of WALLACES FARMER.
All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2012.