Organic producers in Maine are faring better than organic producers in some other areas regarding feed availability and prices. A Maine-based organic dairy cooperative reports producer members continue to benefit from the state’s extended 2013 fall season, which yielded an extra hay cutting that continues to help keep organic milk production at good levels.

Organic corn to feed cattle is still in the $10 to $12/bushel range in the Midwest. Expectations of lower average bushel weight are forming. Longer range apprehension hinges on projection for conventional corn prices falling in 2015, which will commensurately reduce prices of organic feed corn. Some producers worry that organic feed corn prices will fall below the point that will keep a number of growers financially able to continue to grow organic feed corn.

The situation in California’s drought-stricken Marin and Sonoma counties continues to cause concern. Some organic dairy producers say recent rains were a relief, but the drought conditions continue. There are reports of 30 or more days of pasture growing season already lost due to the lack of rain. Silage crops already planted have grown more slowly than normal and will likely have a lower yield than normal. Purchased organic feed supplies are tight.

Some California organic dairy producers are bringing in feed and hay from as far away as Arizona and Montana. Montana hay delivered to Northern California can now cost $350 a ton, compared with $200 to $250 last year.

There are mixed reports as to organic dairy cattle. Some of the longer established organic dairy producers in the counties have no current plans to sell off animals as a result of the adverse conditions and resulting financial impact. But other organic producers in California have already sold cows because of the higher cost of feeding them, especially with distressed pastures.

Organic cattle are required to receive at least 30% of their dry matter intake, such as grasses, from a pasture at least 120 days a year. California North Bay producers report little pasture growth has developed yet, two months into the normal growing season there.

On Feb. 12, USDA granted a temporary variance from the organic dairy grazing season requirement to organic dairy producers in the 53 of California’s 58 counties that have been designated as primary natural disaster areas due to drought.

Producers in the 53 counties with grazing plans that include grazing during February and March 2014, will not be required to graze or provide dry matter intake from pastures during those two months. Organic producers will be allowed to reduce their 2014 grazing season by the number of days that correspond to February and March in their grazing plan.

According to USDA’s bi-weekly National Organic Grain and Feedstuffs report, demand for feed grade organic corn and soybeans is moderate to good. The supply of organic hay remains light. Trucking issues and weather delays continued to be a problem but are expected to improve over the next few weeks.

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