September 2, 2003
(Albany-AP) -- Georgia's hay producers have tried to stay a step ahead of the showers that have made this the soggiest Southern summer in years, but in many cases the weather has kept them from cutting hay at the peak of nutrition.
Experts say there will be less premium hay this fall. The short supply, plus higher fuel and fertilizer costs, could mean higher hay prices for horse and cattle owners. Hay is to work horses and milk cows what high-octane fuel is to racing cars.
Premium hay helps dairy cows maintain peak production, although owners are not dependent on it because they can feed cows supplements to keep the milk flowing. Georgia has between 200,000 and 250,000 horses. Many of them are in metro Atlanta stables or on the 71 plantations stretching from the Albany area to Tallahassee, Florida.
Georgia also has about 1.2 million cattle and calves, including 86,000 dairy cows. During the 1998-2002 drought, hay supplies sometimes ran short because grass did not get enough rain. This year, there was more than enough.
John Andrae, a University of Georgia Extension Service forage specialist, says the plentiful rains this year mean great yields, but relatively poor quality.
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