Forage supplies are short in South Dakota

A forage specialist says the back-to-back drought years are causing a shortage of hay in South Dakota.

The U.S. Drought Monitor says 78% of South Dakota is experiencing dry conditions with 5% of the state in extreme drought.

Sara Bauder with South Dakota State University Extension says the first cutting of alfalfa wasn’t bad this year, but the grass isn’t growing back.

“There’s just not moisture and it’s been very hot,” she says. “The first cutting may have been short, not horrible, and a lot of people are cutting grass earlier than usual.”

Bauder says the situation could change if rain comes, but it’s difficult to make up for lost hay. At this point, she says farmers are starting to secure hay needs from other sources in and out of South Dakota.

“SDSU Extension has a Feed and Forage Finder Facebook page and that’s one place to go and post forage needs or supplies that you have for sale. There’s also a grazing exchange the South Dakota Soil Health Coalition put together.”

She says producers can cut small grains for hay and plant warm season grasses on that harvested ground for cattle to hay or graze.

“Hay millet can be drought hearty, but it needs moisture. A crop that gets overlooked a lot is sorghum and it does very well in drought.”

But Bauder cautions producers who have cut small grains for forage to test the small grains for nitrates, because higher levels are toxic to livestock.

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