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Paynesville Press - June 26, 2002

Dry weather needed to make hay

By Bonnie Jo Hanson

As area farmers work to harvest the first alfalfa cutting, Mother Nature seems to battle them every step of the way.

This spring was cold and wet. Alfalfa got off to a late start and has matured later than normal.

Now the alfalfa crop is finally ready to harvest, but much of it is sitting in area fields because it's too wet to bale or chop.

Statewide, as of Monday, June 17, the first cutting of alfalfa was 48 percent harvested compared to 56 percent last year and 73 percent for the five-year average.

Dan Martens, Benton County Extension Educator, said that even if farmers were able to cut alfalfa between showers last week that it's just too wet to make hay.

Locally, the harvest is about on par with the state average, according to Dave Schwartz, Meeker County Extension Educator. It's been slow area farmers are almost two and a half weeks behind, he said.

Since chopped hay can be harvested with a higher moisture level than baled hay, many farmers finished chopping hay last week while only a few have been able to bale.

Bob Lieser, who farms north of Paynesville, said that he finished chopping on Saturday, June 15. It took him five days to finish.

Another farmer from north of Paynesville said that he finally got hay baled last week. He was thankful to be finished because he had begun to buy hay for his dairy herd while his hay sat wet in the field.

Schwartz said that he only knew one farmer that had baled hay by June 15. "It's been a terrible year for hay, just terrible," he said.

He said that central Minnesota received two to six inches of rain last Saturday and Sunday, which will delay the harvest even more.

Unfortunately, according to Martens, a crop that is harvested late tends to lose some of its nutritional value. Samples taken on June 10 indicated that the crop had already started to decline in quality and will continue to do so until it is harvested.

On the good side though, Schwartz said that the hot weather late last week and over the weekend was wonderful for alfalfa. If the weather continues as forecasted, the harvest could be caught up by the end of this week, said Schwartz

. Farmers that were able to chop hay and get it in silos early this month could get a second cutting near the first of July.

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