As the summer season approaches, those looking to harvest their fields are concerned about drought levels.
According to the US Drought Monitor, about a third of Gallatin County is at intensity level D3, or extreme drought, with the remainder at intensity level D2. Dr. Hayes Goosey says it’s not just drought that causes low yield.
“Growing conditions are worse,” Goosey said. “The top surface of the soil is so dry – even the moisture we got only wet the top 6-8 inches.”
Dr. Goosey is an associate professor and extension forage specialist at Montana State University and with MSU Extension. Words he hears from producers in the region: concern.
“They ran out of hay last year, and it didn’t get better,” Goosey said. “They’re looking for options, and again, their options come in the form of high hay prices and, quite often, long hauls to get that hay to the farm and ranch.”
A local business owner, who wished to remain anonymous, commented on the rising hay prices. They buy more than 100 tons of hay per year.
“We bought between $150 and $175 a ton, it jumped up to $400,” the company owner said.
The hay harvest doesn’t just affect those who grow the crop and those who feed their cattle, horses, or other farm animals: grocery store buyers.
A chain reaction. Hay has a higher price, ranchers are selling off portions of their herd so fewer cows go to market, and those that do cost more at the grocery store. All this, added to the cost of transport and the increase in the price of gasoline, explains Dr. Jane Boles.
Dr. Boles is an associate professor and head of the meat lab at Montana State University and cites drought as one of the causes of this impact on store shelves.
Growers interested in learning more can contact the MSU Extension office to speak to a specialist.