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Weather making Hay Expo preparations a challenge

By Jean Caspers-Simmet

Date Modified: 06/20/2013 10:31 AM

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WAUKON, Iowa — To say that the weather has been a challenge this spring is an understatement.

Not only does Bill Regan at Regancrest Holsteins have to worry about planting corn, soybeans, oats and alfalfa, and chopping rye and the first cutting of hay, he's making arrangements to host the Farm Progress Hay Expo June 19-20.

"The way the weather is, it's making it a little difficult," Regan said.

The Regans have 600 acres of corn planted and 500 acres to go. There are 200 acres of oats and alfalfa seeded.

Regan said they can chop corn for silage if it gets late.

"We may have to go to some earlier varieties depending when this weather straightens out," Regan said. "We still have some 108-day corn to plant, a lot of 104-day and some 99-day that we'll finish up with."

When it does dry up, they have to chop alfalfa.

"We left a little more hay in production and seeded down a little more this year," he said. "We have some three- and four-year-old stands that don't look the best, but it's been too wet to plow them up. We'll make hay on them and they may have to stay in hay."

The Regans seeded rye on some silage ground after applying liquid manure last fall.

"That's another problem," Regan said. "The fields are soft, and the rye is going to be past maturity."

They harvested the alfalfa May 24-25 on Hay Expo ground.

"We fed the last two loads away because it was a little to wet to put in the bunker," Regan said. "At least we got that done and hopefully there will be a good crop there by June 19. We need sunshine and heat."

With last year's drought, they were short of hay, and they normally buy a lot of hay.

"I think all the dairymen and cattle raisers are in the same boat, it will take a while to get caught up," Regan said. "Corn silage piles are smaller than normal for this time of year and they're going to be feeding more haylage through the summer. It's going to be a catch-up game. We'll have a late first-crop harvest."

Regan said waterways, low spots and flat areas that didn't drain well in new seedings winterkilled. The weather was also hard on older seedings.

"We had a lot of snow on the ground and then we had that heavy rain that turned the snow to ice and I think that's what killed it," Regan said.

The Regans chop 90 percent of their alfalfa. With the right moisture, they get four good hay crops. They usually spray for potato leaf hoppers after first cutting and scout with crop consultant Dave Heitman before deciding whether to spray after the second crop. They had some Headline fungicide trials last year and plan more this year. They are also experimenting with adding boron to hay.

"We plant top-of-the line alfalfa varieties with leaf hopper resistance," Regan said.

The Regans feed all their corn, alfalfa, oats and rye. They sell their beans and buy back soybean meal.

The Regans like to leave hay stands down for four years on average.

"In the hills here we need the hay there to hold the soil, and we need a lot of hay for the dairy," Regan said. "If we can get enough haylage for dairy cows we figure we can buy lower quality hay for the heifers. We also use a little wheat straw that we buy from Canada in the heifer rations."

The Regans buy at hay auctions in Waukon and Fort Atkinson and purchase some hay from Canada.

They use inoculant in the haylage and corn silage. They make high-moisture earlage and some high-moisture corn for the cows.