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Greene County “Hay School” offers wide variety of information to help farmers improve haymaking skills

Published: Apr. 26, 2022 at 6:26 PM CDT|Updated: Apr. 26, 2022 at 7:32 PM CDT
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BROOKLINE, Mo. (KY3) - At the Brookline Church of Christ Family Center, just across the street from Amazon’s distribution warehouse, they preached the gospel of “hay” on Tuesday.

The University of Missouri Extension Service taught a day-long course covering a wide variety of hay-related topics, including beef cattle nutrition, pest control, managing costs, and growing and testing.
It was “hay school” with about 20 adult students in attendance.

Georgia and Chris Douglas are long-time alfalfa hay growers near Sparta who you’d think would know everything there is to know about their operation.

“But we should never stop learning,” Chris said. “For me, this year, I learned about the importance of hay analysis and providing that to the customers we sell to so they know the quality they’re getting.”

“What I picked up this time was the importance of the soil testing, so you are putting the right nutrients on your land for a higher quality crop,” added his wife, Georgia. “It is hard work, but you’re not going to get closer to nature and to God than through farming.”

“We sometimes get stuck in a rut of doing the same things that dad or grandpa did many years ago,” said Tim Schnakenberg, MU Extension’s Field Specialist in Agronomy. “But sometimes we have to consider new ways of doing things looking at not just technology but just changing our strategies.”

That’s even more important these days because the challenges are more significant than ever.

“Hay production is very expensive,” Schnakenberg said. “And there’s a lot at stake. It’s become quite stressful, and it’s harder to keep these operations in business because of the expenses right now.”

“Since I took over from my parents over the last 24 years, prices have probably doubled,” Chris concurred. “The biggest thing is the (cost of) fertilizer and most recently the farm equipment.”

“As I’ve talked with some of our customers over the years, we all laugh and say, ‘Yes, we have kind of an expensive hobby,’” Georgia said with a laugh. “But you have to love it to put the work into it.”

So when you see hay bales in the field and don’t give them a second thought because you don’t own livestock, remember this you may think hay has nothing to do with you, but indirectly it does.

“If you eat meat at all, it impacts you,” Schnakenberg explained. “When we go to the restaurant or go to the grocery store and buy food, what’s happening with hay production as far as the expenses that farmers are incurring, it eventually translates into what it costs us to buy food.”

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