Maine’s recent droughts have been taking a huge toll on the quality of hay for Maine farmers, forcing them to adopt new strategies to keep their hay in the best condition and keep their livestock healthy. On Wednesday, Dec. 9, the University of Maine’s Department of Agriculture hosted a virtual talk to discuss various agricultural insurance policies, as well as strategies for securing reliable hay during these droughts. The talks were given by Risk Management Crop Insurance Educator Chris Howard and Sustainable Dairy and Forage Systems professor Rick Kersbergen.
Howard gave the first half of the talk. She wanted to make sure that interested parties are made aware of various insurance opportunities for their crops, livestock and property. She advertised several programs that could be beneficial to farmers, such as the Livestock Forage Program (LFP), the Emergency Loan Program (ELP) and the Noninsured Crop Disaster Assistance Program (NAP).
Several programs are also available to help with whole farm protection, which can be available to farmers who produce revenue for at least two different commodities. In these programs listed above, farmers don’t need to produce the expected yield for each crop but must be able to have verifiable results in order to receive coverage. The more commodities that a property produces, the more coverage the property will end up receiving. A COVID-19 food assistance program also exists, which has been incredibly helpful during the pandemic. This program is for those who have experienced market difficulties during the pandemic and need some relief. Approved parties can receive 10% of their gross sales from 2019 as their payment. Howard hopes that people will jump on these opportunities so that they can be as secure as possible going forward.
Kersbergen gave the second part of the talk. The main goal of this discussion was to help farmers determine how much hay they will need to make it through the winter, provide information on forage alternatives and provide resources to reduce waste and help feed go farther. Every type of livestock needs different amounts and hay. An animal that weighs 1,000 pounds is considered to be one animal unit. Depending on how many animal units you have, this determines how much hay you will need to supply to keep those animals healthy.
Kersbergen then spoke on hay quality and optimal storage conditions. The less moisture that hay has in it, the more optimal it is to give to animals. If hay has been stacked individually out in the open with large gaps between other bales, then the overall moisture will be low. However, if the bales are stacked in a pyramid like structure, it creates a gutter system that will lead to great amounts of moisture and extensive damage to the hay. Kersbergen’s greatest recommendation was to store hay inside as much as possible and to avoid these unfavorable conditions. When purchasing hay, Kersgergen explains, it is very important to ask the seller how their hay was stored and to make sure that you aren’t getting a bad deal.
This talk served as a way to educate farmers on various opportunities to have a more secure production. Whether it’s having the right insurance or storing hay properly, the educational potential of this event is incredibly high and will likely help farmers move forward from the pandemic and Maine’s drought.