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Drought continuing to impact Montana hay producers

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Posted at 8:46 AM, May 16, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-16 11:06:47-04

The summer season approaching and people looking to harvest their fields are concerned about the drought situation in parts of Montana.

The U.S. Drought Monitor shows approximately one-third of Gallatin County is in the D3 intensity level — "Extreme Drought" — with the remaining in D2 intensity level.

Montana State University Associate Professor Dr. Hayes Goosey says that it is not just the drought that causes a low yield.
“The growing conditions are worse,” Goosey said. “The top surface of the soil is so dry — even the moisture that we’ve got has only wet the top 6"-to-8".

Dr. Goosey — who is an Extension Forage Specialist with MSU Extension — says he has been hearing concerns being voiced by producers.

“They were short on hay last year, and it hasn’t gotten any better,” Goosey said. “They're looking for options, and again, their options come in the forms of high hay prices, and quite often long hauls to get that hay to the farm and the ranch.”

A local business owner — who wished to remain anonymous — commented on the rising high of hay prices. They buy over 100 tons of hay a year.

“We’ve been buying at $150-175 a ton, it’s jumped up to $400,” said the business owner, who buys over 100 tons of hay a year.

The hay harvest affects more than just those that are growing the crop and those that are feeding their cattle, horses, or other livestock. It also hits grocery store shoppers.

"A chain reaction. Hay comes at a higher price, ranchers liquidate portions of their herd so fewer cows go to market, and those that do come at a premium cost at the grocery store. All of this, coupled with the transportation fee and rising gas prices," says MSU Associate Professor Dr. Jane Boles.

Dr. Boles — who serves as Meat Lab Manager at MSU — cites the drought as one cause of this impact on the shelves of the store.

Producers wishing to learn more can contact the MSU Extension office at (406) 994-0211 to speak with a specialist.