Alabama Farmers Federation State Hay and Forage Committee members met in Goshen June 30 to discuss the potential irrigation has for their crops.
Steve Stroud, committee second vice chairman and Pike County Farmers Federation president, recently installed a center pivot system to irrigate 76 of the 200 acres where he raises hay. Committee members from Mobile to Colbert counties attended the June 30 meeting. Committee Chairman Joe Potter of Russellville called Stroud an “innovator.”
“What we saw was interesting and something I think we’re going to see more of in our state,” Potter said. “If you don’t cut hay every 45 days (or less), the quality goes way down. With his irrigation system, Steve has removed one of the biggest factors in that equation. Having water on your hayfield at the right time really does make all the difference.”
Last year was the driest year on record for his farm, said Stroud, 43, who also raises poultry.
“With the demand I have for my hay, I decided then I had to have some insurance,” he said. “This center pivot system is my insurance that my hay can get water when I need it.”
Stroud has farmed nearly all his life — full time since 1996. He said like most new things, there’s still some tweaking to be done on the irrigation system, namely improving his water supply.
The day of the tour, he was installing a second deep well. Even operating at half capacity, the investment is paying dividends, Stroud said.
“At the end of June, I already had three cuttings of hay on this field,” he said. “Normally, that would be just two cuttings. It’s still early, but it looks like I’m going to be able to cut and bale hay every three weeks instead of every four weeks, and the quality of the hay is improving, too.”
The Federation’s Nate Jaeger said meetings like the one at Stroud’s farm demonstrate the value irrigation has on a crop raised in all 67 Alabama counties.
“Hay and forages get neglected a lot of times when it comes to irrigation discussions,” said Jaeger, the organization’s Hay and Forage Division director. “But those are among the biggest crops grown in our state. Irrigation provides an opportunity to make a higher quality crop that can be harvested in a timely manner. With a crop as ubiquitous as hay, increasing the quality of the crop adds a lot of value to livestock owners who use it for feed and to the bottom line of farmers who grow it.”
Stroud said more options on his farm are an added bonus of irrigation. More water on hay is his current best investment, he said, but commodity prices could change his focus to other crops in the future.
“If corn goes back up to $8 a bushel, I might not be able to resist using my irrigation to grow some 200-bushel (per acre) corn,” he said.
For more photos of the tour, visit the Federation’s Facebook page.