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Hay production in the Gallatin Valley: 'Worst season'

Posted at 5:54 PM, Dec 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-02 19:54:09-05

BOZEMAN - Following a drought, hay farmers look toward next season; keeping fingers crossed as little snow and moisture is in the upcoming forecast.

Kraft Hay & Grain has been a hay producer in Bozeman since 1906, and according to Ty Kraft, this past season was the worst he’s ever seen.

“Nobody in our family that is alive has seen anything like it, it’s the worst thing we’ve seen in this valley yet,” Kraft said.

Receiving upwards of 30 calls a day from customers, Kraft and his family faced not only the drought but a frost in Mid-May that set the harvest back even further. Orders that used to be an ‘automatic' deal, faced the danger of being incomplete.

Kraft notes that he worked with different hay producers to secure orders for his customers, as he and his family tended to their fields.

Experiencing hardship, adaptations, and shortcomings is never ideal, but now farmers may have a bit of ‘know how’ for next season, MSU Professor Dr. Hayes Goosey said.

Goosey explains how a farmer may want to start with damaged or "at-risk" fields and work their way toward their high investments. For those damaged fields, using spring barley may result in crop harvest, and when protecting those high investment fields, grazing may be the answer, Goosey said.

Like so many other businesses, this shortage is not a one-factor issue. Mother Nature may have had control over the drought and frosts, but the wrapping used for hay bales, fertilizer, heavy machinery were all subject to shortages.

“It’s December, and as you can see it’s dry. There’s no snow, we should be up to our waist in the snow where we’re at,” Kraft said.

Though the future is unknown, the farming industry has and will likely always be a gamble, Kraft said. Anticipating what you can and putting in hard work is what Kraft Hay & Grain keeps in mind when heading into this next season.

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