Are you looking to buy hay? Can’t find anything local? When you finally do find hay, don’t also bring undesired pests to your farm or ranch along with that imported hay.

Hay is expensive this fall, and very hard to find. You may be looking out-of-state or even out-of-country to find hay for this winter.

Whenever you bring hay from another location onto your land, you also run the risk of bringing any pests onto your land that were in the distant hayfield. If hay comes from someone close by, you probably won’t bring in anything you don’t already have. But when hay comes from a long distance, you can get pests that are new or extra hard to control.

So, what should you lookout for? It could be any number of things, but some examples might be sericea lespedeza and old-world bluestems from Kansas, endophyte-infected fescue from Missouri, or absinthe wormwood from North and South Dakota. Even with more local hay, a clean pasture may suddenly be infected with leafy spurge or Canada thistle.

These examples all are weeds, but hay also can carry other pests. For example, it might contain alfalfa weevils from just about anywhere or fire ants from Texas. Fire ants won’t survive a typically harsh Nebraska winter, but if it’s mild and the hay is well-sheltered, they could be a problem for a season or two.

Now – I don’t mean to suggest that all hay from these areas will carry problem pests. Lots of very good hay is made in these areas. But how do you reduce the risk of acquiring these pests?

Begin by asking questions. Find out what pests are a problem in that area. Check references. Reserve the right to refuse the hay after it arrives, and you’ve check it out thoroughly. Then, when you feed the hay, do it only in a small area. That way, if a problem does develop, you can keep it isolated and, hopefully, controllable. 

By Ben Beckman

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