Pasture conditions this week in Illinois were rated 22 percent good to excellent, 39 percent fair, and 39 percent poor or very poor compared to a dire situation on Aug. 6 when 95 percent of pastures were rated poor or very poor.
“I’m much more optimistic (now than in July and August),” Jeff Beasley, president of the Illinois Beef Association and a cattle producer from Creal Springs, told FarmWeek. “Once we started getting rain in August, the grass started growing immediately.
“We definitely will have some fall pasture (to graze cattle),” he continued. “And some guys will get another cutting of hay.”
In fact, some farmers this year recorded the most-ever cuttings of alfalfa on their farms.
Leroy Getz, a FarmWeek Cropwatcher from Savanna in Carroll County, this month harvested his fifth cutting of alfalfa. He said at least two dairy farmers in his area squeezed in six cuttings this season.
“I’ve never had a season in which I could get in five cuttings,” said Getz, who has farmed for 57 years and runs an operation consisting of 90 milk cows and about 90 replacement animals. “Total production of alfalfa is a little short. That’s why everybody’s trying to get an extra cutting.”
Getz credits the increased number of alfalfa cuttings this year to an early start to the season, the fact that alfalfa still grows with little moisture, and rapid harvests that were not slowed by rain.
The large number of alfalfa cuttings and improvement in pasture conditions have eased many cattle producers’ concerns about feed availability, but the issue likely will linger through winter.
“I think getting these late-summer, early-fall rains will keep some guys from thinning their herds,” Beasley said. “But I’m still pretty concerned about this corn crop being short.”
Getz plans to feed all his corn to his cattle this year, as opposed to selling some of it on the open market. He also is baling all his cornstalks.
“Feed supplies are very limited,” said Getz, who noted hay prices in his area jumped from $110 per ton to as much as $250 per ton. “It will make a big difference what kind of winter we have. I hope next spring is an early spring.” Cattle require more feed to produce energy in colder weather.
The producers also expressed concerns about the availability of distillers grains for feed rations if the ethanol industry reduces production, and hay/forage quality as many producers in recent months cut and harvested just about anything that was available.
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