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A good first hay cutting

By Sara Gregory
Salisbury Post
The first hay cutting of the year was good, but unless more rain falls, there won’t be much of a second cut.
Still, Jim Cowden, the county’s extension director, says this year likely will be better for hay than last.
“(This year) wasn’t the best year,” Cowden said. “But there was nothing last year.”
Having seen the hay bales farmers have already cut, Cowden said that “at least they got something.”
Rowan County grows about 16,000 acres of hay, Cowden said. Last year, the hay crop struggled after an Easter weekend freeze.
And the drought after that freeze didn’t help either. Cowden estimates there was a rainfall deficit of about 20 inches for the year.
“When the ground is so dry on the top, even if we do get a little bit of rainfall it won’t penetrate very far,” he said. “It was pretty bad ó almost a crisis situation.”
Because farmers weren’t able to harvest enough hay, many struggled to feed livestock during the winter.
Until April, the N.C. Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services sold hay throughout the state to help meet winter demands.
This year, it looked like perfect conditions early on. Cool weather and regular rainfall helped the first cutting, seen now in the bales of hay dotting farmers’ fields.
But if the recent dry weather and the heat continues, the outlook for the second hay cutting is bleak.
“We’re not even in summer yet,” Cowden said. “It’s already the earliest on record of being the hottest on record.”
Plants are resilient and can cope with hot and dry weather to a certain extent, but they do need a little help, Cowden said.
“Just keep praying for rain.”
Contact Sara Gregory at 704-797-4257 or sgregory@salisburypost.com.

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