Grain producers optimistic for the season

Rolls of hay bales line this field along the South Fork of the Shenandoah River near the bridge in Front Royal after a rain shower Wednesday afternoon. Area hay harvests have been bountiful this spring. Rich Cooley/Daily

Although state numbers might show otherwise, 2015 is looking positive for area grain producers, according to Bobby Clark, Virginia Cooperative Extension agent for the Northern Shenandoah Valley.

A May 12 USDA forecast for state wheat and hay reported a 100,000-pound dip in hay stock from May 1, 2014 to May 1, 2015.

Clark said a similar trend that he has noticed within the counties of Shenandoah, Warren, Clarke, Page and Frederick is reflective of those numbers.

“We ended the winter with very low hay supply in the whole area,” Clark said, which is mostly a result of cold winter weather.

The abnormally cold months of March and February “really affected the amount of hay everybody needed to feed,” Clark explained.

According to the USDA’s report, farmers statewide reported using 81 percent of their hay stocks since Dec. 1, 2014.

With hay stocks being short from the winter, Clark said he has seen “a lot of farmers making what we call haylage out of rye and barley.”

This is a type of forage that, Clark explained, many producers resort to when their hay supply is low. He said this technique is “very effective” at filling in shortfalls in hay stock.

Although the supply is short for hay, Clark said that he does not believe it will be a “major impediment” to any operation. “It’s a normal thing, happens once in a while.”

Hay-baling season is underway, and experts statewide will get a better view as to where the crop will stand moving forward.

“This dry weather that we are experiencing is likely going to make our first cutting of hay short,” Clark said, adding, “It’s no time to hit the panic button as far as I can tell.

“If, this summer, we start getting more rains … everybody will make a lot of hay and we’ll be fine,” Clark added.

On the flip side, Clark indicated that these weather conditions have been really good for producers who are planting crops, especially critical commodities like wheat grains, corn and soybeans.

Time will tell if 2015 can top the record-setting corn yields that producers enjoyed in 2012. For now, Clark said that “everybody is optimistic” about where the season is heading.

“We’re off to a roaring start with [corn and soybean], probably the best start we’ve had in the last four or five years,” Clark said. “We haven’t had this kind of early hot weather in a long, long time.”

Contact staff writer Kevin Green at 540-465-5137 ext. 155, or kgreen@nvdaily.com