Tennessee forage growers hay plentiful

TENNESSEE forage producers are enjoying a rare but welcomed perfect growing season in 2013.

Tennessee forage grower, cattleman eyes rare third hay cutting

What a difference a year makes in Lauderdale County, Tenn. Last year was brutally hot and dry. This summer it’s been relatively cool with lots of rain, perfect hay-growing weather. Growers there are getting stocked up for the winter.

Get it cut, get it baled and get it in the barn.

What a difference a year makes in Lauderdale County, Tenn. Last year was brutally hot and dry. But this summer it’s been relatively cool with lots of rain.

That means farmers like Larry McCoy can stock up on forage for his hundred head of cattle.

"I usually have up to around 500 rolls of hay every year or four-by-five bales. I had six this spring when I got through feeding. I have 270 rolls already put up off the first cutting, and I’m starting the second cutting, and with the rains continuing, we might get a third cutting,” said McCoy, cattle producer in Lauderdale County, Tenn.

A third cutting is a rare luxury for farmers. McCoy teamed with J.C. Dupree to conduct a forage spray plot to keep weeds out of his field. Now McCoy has a pretty crop to cut, and that should get him through the winter in good shape.

“Of course we have producers who have four and five head, and we have others who have up to 500 head. Typically in this county you want to store hay for December, January and February, and you hope in March you get the spring rains and then you have the pasture growth,” said Dupree, University of Tennessee Extension agent in Lauderdale County.

Cattle producers are grass farmers first. They have to grow the food that grows the animals. Ideally farmers would like to grow forage 300 days of the year, and it takes warm and cool season grasses to do that.

Beef cattle farming is Tennessee’s top Ag commodity, a half billion dollar a year business. Lauderdale County is known for its rich soils and high yielding row crops. But when the rain falls here, there’s also an excellent hay crop.

Tennessee has about 11 million acres of land in agricultural production, and more than half that is in forage.

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