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Hay Expo brings first stretch of dry weather

By Jean Caspers-Simmet

Date Modified: 07/15/2013 9:55 AM

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WAUKON, Iowa — Bill Regan says the weather for last week's Farm Progress Hay Expo as "the best haying weather we've had."

The show was at Regancrest Holsteins near Waukon, but many farmers who have struggled with wet weather all season were home making hay, planting, spraying or all of the above.

"The crowd wasn't as big on the first day, and that's understandable," Regan said. "We did have a nice crowd the second day and everything went well. We had good demonstrations, and the people who were here enjoyed it."

His operation has had difficulty getting in the field due to ongoing rain.

"We finally finished planting corn and beans last week," he said Friday. "We've got three more days of hay to do, and we'll be done with first cutting. All the early corn is sprayed. The oats are getting a good green color. The heat and sun really helped. The Lord blessed us with a good week of weather."

Mike Burken of Clinton was looking at the mega tractor-mounted hay cutters at last week's show.

"I want to be able to cut hay faster," he said. "It's fun comparing all the equipment. This is a nice show."

Burken is part of Blue Hyll Dairy with his parents, Loran and Betty, and his brother Marty. They milk 700 cows and grow 500 acres of hay, 2,300 acres of corn and 700 acres of beans. He is in charge of crops.

"We've had better weather in our area," Burken said. "It's a lot wetter up here. We could actually use a little rain."

Dale Leslein of Durango called Thursday, "a million dollar hay day" with the sun, wind and low humidity. He raises corn, soybeans, hay and oats, has a cow/calf operation and runs the Dyersville Hay Auction.

"Everything is way behind," Leslein said of the hay crop. "We're usually done with first cutting hay by Memorial Day. I'm only half done with my first cutting. It's been a late, cool wet spring, and we'll probably have one less cutting than normal. It's been very challenging."

Dry hay is bringing a huge premium at the auction, Leslein said. The grass market has backed off. Top-end dairy hay in big squares is bringing $270 to $330 a ton, more than double a year ago.

Leslein came to the Hay Expo to see the latest in hay equipment.

"Being in the hay business from producer to marketer, you're always trying to see if there is something out here that can improve the quality of your hay," Leslein said. "These shows are very important to hay producers. This is wonderful opportunity to see machines demonstrated in the field."

Brett DeVries, Case IH hay and forage marketing manager, said farmers were asking about technology.

"They want to know about guidance systems on windrowers," said DeVries. "The auto-steer systems are a big thing."

Farmers are also asking about ways to get more bales per hour.

"They're interested in increasing efficiencies and want to know what our products can do to help with that."

Farmers want balers that will bale different crops.

"They bale hay, grass, corn stalks, maybe some straw, even soybean stubble," DeVries said.

Jeremiah Wiese, Merschman Seeds dealer in Wheatland, said he is getting questions about cover crops.

"For farmers who have had flooded acres, the best thing they can do is plant a grass or a mix with our NitroRadish to keep weeds down and keep the microbes alive in the soil," Wiese said. "A lot of guys who took prevented planting had floods on their ground, sometimes for several weeks, and everything has died, that ground is soured. With radishes, grasses and crimson clover they can get the microbes growing now as opposed to waiting until next spring."

Iowa State University Extension field agronomist Brian Lang said show visitors were asking about cover crops, hay, sulfur deficiency, foliar fungicides on alfalfa and potato leafhopper management.