WESTOVER, W. Va. – Over 50 inches of rain fell in 2018, and that is dampening the hay farmers’ spirits across north-central West Virginia.
With almost 20 percent more rain than average falling last year, the area is well on its way for another damp year in 2019, and that means less high-quality hay for herds across the Mountain State.
“We’re getting our hay up later, less quality. We test our hay every year to see what nutrients are in it and it’s dropped off because it’s later,” said Gordon Lawson of Hidden Valley Farm.
Higher quality, dry hay needs three days without rain to be properly baled for the animals, but the off and on rain showers this season haven’t helped any.
Even with the wet streak of weather across north-central West Virginia, farmers are still able to bale their hay in a balage situation.
Balage enables forage with a high moisture content to be baled quickly even if it is impacted by rainfall and sticky dewpoints.
This is one way farmers try to beat out waiting for Mother Nature so they can produce the high quality hay that they need.
“For wet hay, we can speed that process so all it takes is 36 hours. Because all we need that hay to do is start to wilt, reduce that respiration rate very fast, and we can bale at 60% moisture. The reason why he does that is that by the time we finish we’re down to 50 or 45% moisture,” said H.R. Scott of the Monongalia County Extension Office.
Even with baling wet hay and wrapping it, there is still some uncertainty.
Either the hay could mold or the hay may not contain the proper nutrients for the cattle it’s feeding.
With this option available, it is one way that farmers can recoup their investment to have a plentiful harvest without weather getting in the way.