USA:Montana hay producers are cutting best fields in years

Montana’s hay producers are reporting some of the best yields off first cuttings they have seen in years, reported “Kazakh-Zerno” IA with reference to the “Prairie Star“.

Across the state, 80 percent of the alfalfa hay has received its first cutting and 71 percent of all other hay.

Though that is behind the five-year average of 89 percent for alfalfa and 82 percent for all other hay, the quality and quantity of this year’s harvest has been exciting for producers to see.

“We cut all of our own hay and normally we don’t have enough with only one cutting. This year it looks like we will have more than enough and not have to buy any,” said Larry Swizter, who owns L.J. Switzer Ranch near Richey, Mont. He has a cow-calf operation and raises some wheat. He also raises grass hay and hay barley on dryland conditions. This year those hay fields are producing plenty of forage for him.

“The hay barley has been really good and the grass hay is outstanding, too,” he said.

That is greatly due to the abundance of early spring moisture, which gave the crops a strong start and raised topsoil and subsoil moisture conditions across the state.

Even though rain has been a bit sparse in recent days, currently only 23 percent of the state’s topsoils are short or very short on moisture, compared to 63 percent over the five-year average. Subsoil moisture levels are showing 77 percent adequate to surplus, compared to only 47 percent last year and 42 percent over the five-year average.

Not much rain fell during the last two weeks and that has helped Montana producers get out in the field 6.7 days last week. That is close to the five-year average of 6.5 days

During the mid-part of July, Plentywood received the most precipitation with .82 inches. Low levels of precipitation across the week allowed hay producers to cut and bale their hay without much loss.

“I haven’t weighed any bales yet but the number of bales has been very satisfactory. We’re also going to be cutting some CRP grass-alfalfa mix and that looks like it will be really good, too,” Switzer said.

“The only problem with all this hay has been a few more breakdowns with our equipment but that is because we’re working it more than usual,” he said.

Throughout the state, highs were mostly in the upper 80s and mid 90s, with lows scattered in the lower and upper 40s. The highest temperature in the state was recorded at Hardin with 100 degrees.

West Yellowstone again had the weekly low, this time of 23 degrees. Normal temperatures for this period in Montana are highs in the upper 70s to the upper 80s and lows in the lower 40s to lower 60s

Looking forward, producers can continue to expect above normal temperatures and below normal precipitation both east and west of the Continental Divide.

Continued warm and dry weather is creating perfect conditions for grasshoppers.

The insects are starting to spread, and moderate to severe damage is reported in some areas of the state. (For a grasshopper hazard map, producers can go to

The nice weather, however, is also boosting the state’s crops. Exactly even with the five-year average, 94 percent of the dry peas are blooming.

Lentils are not faring as well. Only 78 percent of the lentil crop is in bloom, well behind the five-year average of 92 percent and even behind last year by 7 percent.

A full 83 percent of the state’s barley crop is in good to excellent condition with 95 percent booted, 10 percent turning, and 72 percent headed. The crop condition is well ahead of the five-year average of 60 percent good to excellent, 63 percent for last year.

Durum is showing 88 percent booted and 60 percent headed. Seventy-seven percent is rated as good to excellent, well above the 44 percent good to excellent rating shared by last year and the five-year average.

Ninety-five percent of oats are in the boot stage while 66 percent are headed. Seventy-four percent of the crop is in good to excellent shape. That is on par for the five-year average of 63 percent but down slightly from last year’s 66 percent

Spring wheat is showing 93 percent booted and 65 percent headed. Producers across the state report 82 percent of their spring wheat crop in good to excellent shape. The five-year average shows only 56 percent usually receive that rating. Last year producers gave good to excellent ratings to 64 percent of their spring wheat crop.

With 64 percent of the winter wheat crop turning, producers are pleased with the quality.

One-fourth of the state’s winter wheat is in excellent condition and 57 percent is listed as good. Those are the best numbers in five years.

Fifty-one percent of the camelina crop is turning; 20 percent of the mustard crop is turning and 4 percent of the state’s canola is turning.

Range and pasture feed condition has been consistently good over the past few weeks. This week 81 percent is considered good to excellent, above last year and the five-year average of 45 and 50 percent good to excellent, respectively. 

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