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Rain damages much of East Idaho’s first alfalfa cutting

Eastern Idaho hay farmers have reported significant damage to hay due to rain.
John O’Connell

Capital Press

Published on June 19, 2017 11:37AM

BLACKFOOT, Idaho — Doug Finicle recently cut what he considered to be a beautiful alfalfa crop — at least before a couple of heavy rainstorms arrived.

“It was weed free and cut early, and it was dairy quality,” Finicle said. “I’d be really surprised if it’s dairy quality now.”

He’s one of several Eastern Idaho farmers whose hopes of a high-testing first cutting of alfalfa were quashed by storms.

Finicle, of Pingree, said his hay is nearly dry and ready to bale, but the quality is compromised. He said the hay market has picked up, compared with last year, but it remains to be seen how the recent rain will affect regional hay prices.

“Before it rained, dairy quality was maybe $150 per ton. Nobody is saying anything now,” Finicle said. “Maybe dairy quality went up and feeder went down because the supply of feeder hay just increased.”

Dubois farmer Chad Larsen said he started cutting hay on June 5 and managed to cut and bale two pivots before he was forced to stop on June 10, due to rain. He said about 95 percent of his hay crop remains to be harvested, and though yields will likely be strong, the delayed harvest will likely render his crop feeder quality.

“I’m going to start back up with the swathers tomorrow,” Larsen said.

Larsen said there’s “quite a bit of hay down” between Idaho Falls and Dubois that got wet.

Kelli Morrison arranges transportation to haul hay over a broad region, working for a Boise satellite office of Creswell, Ore.-based Crosswind Logistics.

Morrison said hay farmers sustained heavy rain damage to their first cuttings throughout Eastern Idaho and in the Weiser area, and there have been fewer loads of good, dry hay to ship recently.

“I’m usually shipping about 100 loads per month,” Morrison said. “This month, I’ve moved nine. All of the rain we’ve had has killed me.”

Reed Findlay, University of Idaho Extension educator fro Bingham and Bannock counties, said he recently assessed rain-damaged alfalfa in the Tyhee area near Pocatello, which is still usable but won’t make dairy quality.

Findlay believes quite a bit of Eastern Idaho’s first cutting of alfalfa was baled and out of the field before the storms arrived. Findlay added that weather conditions were ideal for hay growth prior to the storm.

“We’ve had way worse rain storms that have ruined a lot more hay than this past rain storm,” Findlay said.


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