Hampshire County hay crops are seeing a boom this year.
After record rainfalls in 2018 that kept pastures dredged and unable to be worked with through spring, this season’s output is estimated to be “perhaps at least 20 percent higher,” said farmer John Arnold.
Arnold said, “Most farmers around here only grow enough to keep their cattle fed through the cold months.”
Jeremy Oates, who grows feed-quality hay predominantly for mushroom farms, echoed Arnold’s sentiment. “I may do a second cut,” said Oates.
County Commissioner and local farmer Dave Parker said, “the [crop] has been a good volume, it’s been making good quality, but I had to wrap some and put it in silage.” Other local farmers agree that the county has had enough rain that there’s a second harvest coming.
“We had that extra rain in the spring and people got their fertilizer down. The tonnage has been good,” said Oates, who noted “the old square bales are diminishing in number because we just can’t find workers to do it.”
The 2018 state agriculture study from the USDA put last year’s statewide hay output (including alfalfa) yield at 1.72 tons per acre. Total production was 922,000 tons sold at $127 per ton with a total production value of $116,445,600.
Tristen Tanner, of Tanner Farms in Green Spring, who specialize in equine hay said this year’s hay season was off to a slow start with the early rains, but was far less challenging than last year.
“The past few weeks of dry weather have really helped with getting dry hay made and we are now almost done with our second cut on most fields,” he said.
“Yield wise,” he said, “things are back to where they have been in years past. However, the adverse effects of last year’s extremely wet conditions were evident.”
They ranged from ruts in the fields to large areas of dead patches that were under water for sustained periods.
“Overall, we are happy to say it has been a much better hay season so far this year,” he said. o