MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Corn and soybeans weren’t the only crops impacted by the cold, wet weather we had this spring. Alfalfa and hay farmers are behind as well.
Alfalfa is used for feed and bedding for dairy cows. Without a good crop, dairy farmers will likely have to pay more to feed their cows.
“We’ve been doing this 15 years already and it’s by far the worst year we’ve ever had,” Greg Otto, of Otto Farms Chopping, said.
By July, Otto was hoping things would be better. He’s chopping hay for cow feed, working quickly to get it done. But that doesn’t mean his harvest will amount to much. He’s expecting a silage shortage.
“It’s extremely tough to find a window to cut it. And if you do get it cut, getting it to dry is about impossible this year,” Otto said. “It’s poor quality. It’s late, it’s old, it’s just a challenging year.”
A couple miles away, Dave Marquardt is pondering a similar problem on his farm near Howard Lake.
“You should have plants all around here and not a big gap. You are looking at very spotty plants,” Marquardt said.
Marquardt was one of the lucky ones when it came to planting corn, but not nearly as lucky when it came to alfalfa.
“I think we had too much cold before the snow came in January. I think that caused a fair amount of winter kill,” Marquardt said.
The USDA said this isn’t just a Minnesota concern. In some parts of the Midwest hay stocks are down more than 30% compared to a year ago. When things greened up this spring, Wisconsin farmers also noticed more grass and clover surrounding their alfalfa.
The polar vortex we saw in January is getting much of the blame.
With so many fields looking like less than ideal, dairy farmers can expect to pay more for feed during a time when some of them are already struggling.
“A small, square bale — in past years we’d sell for $4 — is going for upwards of $10 because there is such a short supply,” Marquardt said. “If you’re able to find it that’s great, and sell it, that’s great. But if you’re short on it, it’s way more expensive to swallow right now.”