Due to dry conditions, the majority of Kentucky livestock producers are already into their winter feeding programs, which some began as early as September. Producers need to inventory their hay supplies now to ensure they have enough to last through the winter.

If they find they're short, buying additional hay now can save them a lot of headaches later, said Tom Keene, hay marketing specialist with the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture.  

The good news is Kentucky forage producers had prime haymaking weather earlier this year and were able to get good yields due to adequate springtime moisture.

"During a normal season, we would have had a surplus of hay," Keene said.

However, the timely rains diminished in July for some areas of the state and haven't returned in significant amounts in most places since then. According to the most recent Kentucky Weekly Crop and Weather Report, about 90 percent of the state's pastureland was rated either poor or very poor.

"Even if we got some much needed rain, it is unlikely that pastures will recover enough to provide very many grazing days before cold weather sets in during December and January," he said. "So those currently feeding hay will probably be doing so through March of 2011."

When calculating whether additional hay is needed, producers should consider their current supply, how much they feed their livestock each day, and account for feeding and storage losses. If producers have trouble determining these calculations, they can get assistance from their county Extension agent for agriculture and natural resources.

If the calculations show a need for additional hay, producers should go ahead and purchase some, Keene said.

"By buying hay now, producers will have a bigger selection of quality hay, be more likely to find hay close to home and in the packaging they want," he said. "The longer it's put off, the more trouble producers will have meeting these criteria. The cost is also going to be better now." 

To get the most out of current hay supplies, producers should have their hay tested. The Kentucky Department of Agriculture offers a forage testing program.

"Hay testing helps producers feed the correct amount of hay with the right amount of supplements to meet their animals' nutritional needs," Keene said. "It can help producers feed hay more economically and efficiently."

For more information on the Kentucky Department of Agriculture's testing program or hay for sale across the state, visit http://www.kyagr.com/marketing/forage/index.htm.