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7/25/2013 Hay season underway; yields low


Hay production season is underway in the Wet Mountain Valley. Gerry Elliott, a local hay farmer, owns and leases several hundred acres in the Valley. He said that his crops will reap 50 percent of average this year.

"That’s a good ballpark average to expect from the hay farmers right now," Jim Sperry, from the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS), said. "Those who didn’t get water will probably have 40 percent of average."

"Compared to last year," Elliott said, "it’s about the same. Last year my crops were 50 percent or less."

The dry weather has not helped any of the hay farmers. Because there was so little snowpack on the mountains during the winter and hardly any rain during the spring and summer, the crops have suffered.

"It’s been this dry before," Elliott explained, "but not for three years in a row. I don’t know how many more dry seasons we can stand."

The recent grasshopper infestation made matters worse.

"I didn’t spray my fields," Elliott said. "For me, the grasshoppers are flying all over."

On Tuesday, July 23, Elliott had his two part-time employees, Alice French and Al Spatziana, helping to cut the hay and roll it into bales. He explained that he does the small 60 to 62 pound bales.

"Those small ones don’t sell like they used to," he said. "People like the 800 or 1200 pound square bales because they are easier to put up with a tractor or fork lift."

The bad weather and grasshopper infestation have negatively impacted hay production this season. Elliott said that the consequence of this would trickle down to the town’s economy and affect local merchants.

"The less hay," he said, "the less customers coming to buy. We rely on Mother Nature for rain, and can only hope to see more of it in the coming weeks and more snow in the winter. That’s the only option for us."