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Hay hopes are high for first cuttings
Prices up 19 percent from 2011, farmers optimistic market will stay strong
By JOEL ASCHBRENNER, Herald and News 6/14/12
Swathers rumble over green fields in the Klamath Basin, leaving straight rows of cut alfalfa in their wakes.
The first hay harvest of the year is under way and local farmers are hoping for good yields and high prices.
“This week everyone will be cutting, if they haven’t already,” said Tulelake-area hay farmer David King, who started bailing hay on Tuesday.
Grass and alfalfa hay are two of the Basin’s staple crops, accounting for about 15 percent of total agricultural sales in Klamath County, according to the Klamath Basin Research and Extension Center.
Farmers will harvest the perennial forage crop several times as it grows throughout the summer. King said he’ll cut his alfalfa three times this summer, four on his more productive fields.
Henley-area farmer Kenny Schell spent Wednesday afternoon cutting alfalfa in a field off Reeder Road. Schell said he will harvest his alfalfa three times and his grass hay twice this summer.
The crop looks decent so far, Schell said, but he won’t know how much it yields until he bails the hay. Basin hay crops have experienced limited rain damage compared to previous years, but the several late freezes “really knocked the crap out of the hay,” he said.
The market has been strong for Klamath Basin hay growers. The average price of hay in Oregon was $228 per ton in May, up 19 percent from May 2011.
Drought in the midwest last summer reduced the supply of hay and drove up prices. Schell said he is optimistic the market will remain strong.
King, the president of Klamath Basin Hay Growers Association, listed a number of factors that could affect the market for local hay. With the price of milk down, dairymen are looking to save money by buying lower quality hay, King said. Cows will produce less milk on the low-grade hay, but curtailing the milk supply could in turn help lift the price of milk.
But on the other hand, there could be increased international demand for Klamath Basin hay, King said. Much of the Columbia River Basin hay is rain damaged, so countries like China, Japan and Saudia Arabia, which buy hay from Seattle ports, could look farther south to the Klamath Basin for their hay supplies, King said.
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Page Updated: Friday June 15, 2012 02:18 AM Pacific
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