You still will pay high prices for hay, and you may have to hunt to find the quality you want. But Chris Parker, Morgan County Purdue Extension ag educator and a cattle producer himself, says the situation is much less dire now than it appeared on Aug.1. As a result, hay prices have leveled off or dropped slightly, and likely won't get out-of-sight as once anticipated for the winter.
"We saw an amazing turnaround once it started to rain in early August and then cooled off," Parker says. "The growth in tall fescue and other grass pasture this fall is nothing short of amazing. Many people who didn't get a second cutting of hay got what should have been a third cutting, so there is more hay around than it appeared there might be at the height of the drought."
The biggest change, he says, is that people who started feeding the winter supply of hay in late June or early July as pastures disappeared have now stopped feeding hay. And with the growth of grass and alternative forages seeded for fall, thanks to lots of rain in September and cooler temperatures, plus ample rainfall in October, it may be possible to pasture cattle deeper into fall than normal. None of this appeared to be a possibility as recently as Aug. 1.
People who were making corn stalk bales to survive the winter may still use them, but should be able to intersperse them with hay or feed them to dry cows, Parker says. They should no longer be the only source of forage for ruminants once hay supplies run out. Some culling decisions may look like the wrong move in hindsight.
What you need to remember, he notes, is that even up until Aug. 1, the situation looked desperate, with little chance of fall pasture. Forecasts were for the trend of drier and warner than normal to continue through fall.
That didn't happen. It's the only reason grass supplies recovered, he notes.