First Hay Crop Late, Quality Down
Blackfoot--Idaho farmers for the first time in a decade are praying for sun and heat, but can live without the rain for a while. Southwest Idaho farmers are two weeks behind in their first cutting, on the other end of the state they're at least 10 days behind. According to the National Weather Service in Pocatello, it's rained everyday for the past 11 days and that makes cutting hay impossible.
"Our hay is ready to cut but with this rain and more in the forecast we don't know when we're going to do it. The hard part in all of this is that we have to decide when to cut and then it's how do you get it down and dry." said Idaho Forage and Hay Association President Don Hale of Blackfoot.
Idaho has doubled it's normal June precipitation across the Snake River Plain, reservoirs are full, while rivers and creeks are running high, some reservoirs like Lucky Peak outside of Boise have released water to make way for melting snow. Temperatures have been cool and there's still a lot of snow in the high country. Hale says the cool temps are the only saving grace thus far.
"We are fortunate in that its been cool so it has not bloomed. But the grass has gone to seed and its losing valuable the nutrients in it. The problem is that everyone starts haying and it lasts for 2-3 weeks and they start back in again and its on a rotation. All the hay is going to be ready to cut on the same day when its dry enough, so we are in a real bind as far as getting everything cut quick enough," added Hale.
Hale says the when the hay gets tall and heavy and it falls down on itself, and its almost impossible to cut when dries out you've lost the crop. "When it bleaches out and turns brown they've pretty well lost the crop. We haven't cut so we're sitting here waiting for a few good days to get cutting."
For now there is no back up plan if the rain continues. It's a waiting game that will hopefully end sooner than later. Hale says the big temptation is to cut back on irrigation to save money. But he cautions that cutting irrigation even in wet weather can prove disastrous.
"We have have to be careful, I have a field that takes the pivots 11 days to get from the start to the finish, if your dry too long it will take a long time before you can be back for water. You got to think positive but its going to affect the hay prices, but for feeder hay those prices will drop.