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Published July 03, 2010, 12:00 AM

The hay is coming down

Farmers are beginning to cut fields of hay, but not as much as they did last year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture North Dakota Field Office.

By: KB Carter, The Dickinson Press

Farmers are beginning to cut fields of hay, but not as much as they did last year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture North Dakota Field Office.

The acres of alfalfa hay are down by 180,000 and other hay is down from 1.18 million acres to 1.1 million acres this year, according to the USDA. Wet conditions are slowing down hay baling and warm, dry conditions are needed for producers to make progress spraying and haying as well as for overall crop development.

“There are many reasons as to why the hay acreage could be down this year,” said Ashley Ueckert, Golden Valley County Extension agent. “Farmers will use their land for hay when they feel the soil is poor and the production of hay will help stabilize the soil.

“After four to six years, the soil is again ready to be used for crops such as wheat.”

Ueckert said wheat prices are higher this year over last and more farmers are using their acreage for wheat production than for hay production in order to make a profit.

Another reason for the loss in hay acreage is that some land that had been part of the Conservation Reserve Program is going back into production. The federal program takes land that is prone to soil erosion and lets it stabilize by growing alfalfa hay on it and when the soil is ready it is given back to the farmers for crop production, Ueckert said.

Belfield farmer Dwayne Shypkoski says his hay production is about average this year. However, the wet conditions are making it harder than normal to get the hay in a timely manner.

“Hay baling is best from the last week of June through the middle of July,” he said.

Last week, when most farmers were starting their haying, there were only 4.4 days suitable for field work, according to the USDA.

“On and off rain is not great for the bailing of hay,” Ueckert said. “Alfalfa was ready 10 to 14 days ago and the farmers are just now beginning to bail the hay because of wet conditions.

“Moisture on the hay can leech out the nutrients and also cause the hay to mold.”

Shypkoski is worried about getting his hay baled in a timely manner. He says the longer the hay sits the less quality it will be. Shypkoski is optimistic and says he will use it to feed his livestock over the winter.

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