NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

July 12, 2013

Rain takes its toll on N.H. hay production

Wet weather taking its toll on local hay crop

(Continued)

Ferdinando said it was so wet that year, he couldn’t begin haying until July 20 — a month behind schedule.

“It was really bad that year,” he said. “The hay was absolutely no good.”

In Atkinson, farmer Alice Lewis is relieved her first of two or three hay crops this season has been cut.

But because of all the rain, customers — mostly horse owners — are skeptical about the hay’s quality.

“I would say it’s one of the worse (seasons),” Lewis said. “They all ask the same question, ‘What’s it like?’”

Lewis, who has a 100-acre farm with approximately 40 cattle, takes it all in stride.

“That’s the way it goes,” she said. “Farming is never easy.”

Hay is an important crop for New Hampshire’s farmers, according to Lorraine Merrill, the state’s agricultural commissioner and a Stratham dairy farmer.

More than 1,500 farms across the state harvest hay, she said. In 2011, Granite State farmers cut 105,000 tons of hay, worth an estimated $20 million.

But this summer, it’s a different story.

“It’s been a tough, tough year,” Merrill said. “This has been an extremely challenging year for hay.”

A rainy spring has led to a damp summer, delaying cutting and leading to “overmature hay “ that is brown, less nutritious and not as appealing to livestock, she said.

“What we will see is our dairy cows not making as much milk,” Merrill said. “It’s also a decrease in quality, not just quantity.”

That leads to less profitable hay and higher dairy and meat prices, she said.

Merrill said representatives from the U.S Department of Agriculture are just starting to tally the number of failing hay crops.

Farmers without crop insurance could be in rough shape, she said.

“They are trying to document the losses now,” Merrill said. “There are a lot of frustrated farmers out there.”

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