Hay crop poor in northwest North Dakota, northeast Montana

Farm Forum

WILLISTON, N.D. (AP) — A lack of rain has some ranchers in northwestern North Dakota and northeastern Montana worried about a hay shortage.

“The rain has been goofy,” and some farmers have produced only about a third of the hay they made last year, Williams County Extension Agent Danielle Steinhoff told the Williston Herald ( ).

“A lot of them are worried about having enough hay to get through the winter,” she said. “They’re figuring out who has some hay they can buy, or if they’re going to have to buy corn to feed cattle. They’re worried about what is going to be happening here in the next few months.”

The Williston area has had a little over 6 inches of precipitation so far this year, nearly 2 inches below normal, according to the National Weather Service. Since the start of the growing season, rainfall has been nearly an inch below normal.

Bainville, Montana, rancher Mike Wilson said his hay production is way down.

“We’re getting, I’d say, about a bale an acre. It’s usually more like two or three,” he said.

Wilson is in the midst of the first cutting of hay and said he hopes the second cutting later this summer will be better.

“Money in the bank won’t buy any hay if no one has any to sell,” he said.

Statewide, the condition of the alfalfa hay crop is rated 10 percent poor or very poor, 26 percent fair, 56 percent good and 8 percent excellent, according to the federal Agriculture Department.