EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

New Hampshire

July 12, 2013

Rain takes its toll on N.H. hay production

Wet weather taking its toll on local hay crop

While so many rainy days may have ruined some summer vacation plans, local farmers are drenched in misery of a different kind.

Their hopes for a bountiful hay crop have been washed away by one torrential downpour after another. The dismal weather is diminishing their profits and increasing costs.

“The hay is so wet you can’t get anything done,” said Brian Ferdinando of J&F Farms in Derry. “You can’t bale it.”

J&F hays about 80 acres a year, cutting the hay twice each summer, Ferdinando said.

Although hay sales comprise only a small percentage of the farm’s total business, a poor crop can still take a toll on finances.

The best hay — or “horse hay” — is in high demand. It sells for $6 to $7 a bale. But when hay gets wet in the field, there is a decline in nutritional quality.

That hay, commonly called “construction hay,” is sold to contractors at roughly half the price, Ferdinando said. It’s then used for building projects, often as mulch.

Ferdinando started haying nearly a month ago, but the constant rain has interfered with his first cut. He last cut hay a week ago and is anxiously awaiting the return of dry, sunny weather.

It takes about three days for a soggy, wet field to dry out, he said.

“I need a few days without rain,” Ferdinando said.

The hay Ferdinando cuts is used and sold at the farm. He also still makes 30 to 50 trips to Canada each summer to purchase truckloads for roughly $3 or $4 a bale. He sells the Canadian hay at home for $6 or $7 a bale.

Once hay is cut, farmers need to make sure it doesn’t rot in damp conditions.

“You have to keep moving it,” Ferdinando said.

While Ferdinando, 50, said this year definitely ranks among the wettest seasons in 35 years of haying, it doesn’t compare to 2009. That’s when rain ruined hay and other crops, especially strawberries.

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