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Hay season more bountiful for southwestern ND farmers; rain still needed

It's the middle of hay season in southwestern North Dakota. With a much wetter spring and early summer, ranchers are experiencing a better hay cut than last year. We visited with JC Farms to learn more about what goes into haying.

Citti Christman, the daughter of Jacki and Jordan Christman of JC Farms, stands before a raked windrow, showing how thick and tall the hay crop is this year compared to previous years.
Citti Christman, the daughter of Jacki and Jordan Christman of JC Farms, stands before a raked windrow, showing how thick and tall the hay crop is this year compared to previous years.
Contributed / JC Farms
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ADAMS COUNTY, N.D. — Across North Dakota, farmers and ranchers are busy in the fields, especially with hay season at its peak. In Adams County, North Dakota, just north of the South Dakota border, JC Farms is experiencing a much more abundant hay crop compared to years where drought preyed on the region.

Jordan and Jacki Christman, owners of JC Farms, noted that with this year’s hay season, they are getting about three to four bales to the acre, which is up significantly higher than 2021’s hay season where the average was three-quarters of a bale to the acre.

Hay season is underway at JC Farms in Adams County, North Dakota.
Hay season is underway at JC Farms in Adams County, North Dakota.
Contributed / JC Farms

“Moisture's been great and haying’s a lot funner when you have hay to put it up,” Jordan Christman said. “... Now we need more rain, though. Crops are needing rain.”

Jacki Christman noted that they started cutting their hay before the Fourth of July. Around that time, they received some rain, which helped with the growing season, she said, adding that it has since dried up and they’re hopeful for another downpour soon.

“The very beginning of it, it's been a really good hay season; we can’t complain at all,” Jacki Christman said, adding, “We fertilized a couple of the fields that did really outstanding right before that April blizzard. And then the stuff we didn’t fertilize, still is doing over three bales to the acre.”

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I do think that’s what started us off, getting such a good hay crop with them April blizzards because we need that moisture. Last year, we didn’t get the moisture until May and by then, our hayfields were already about shot. So this April blizzard really helped things get going.
Jacki Christman
Jacki Chirstman, co-owner of JC Farms in Adams County, North Dakota, stands before a baler and tractor during a haying day.
Jacki Chirstman, co-owner of JC Farms in Adams County, North Dakota, stands before a baler and tractor during a haying day.
Contributed / JC Farms
Haying at JC Farms is pictured.
Haying at JC Farms is pictured.
Contributed / JC Farms

Despite a much more bountiful hay season compared to last year, Jacki Christman noted that this summer’s weather patterns are playing a role in crop damage for some ranchers and farmers.

“Most people are pretty happy this year. We haven’t seen any hail. We had some hay barley that got a little hail damage. But for the most part, our area hasn’t had any hail damage. I know farther down south, some of their fields got completely wiped out from hail. So we’ll hopefully get everything put up without seeing any hail on our hay at least,” she added.

On a good haying day, the Christmans will cut approximately 150 acres per day. If the hay is thick, like it is this year, they typically will let the hay dry for about two days before raking it and finally, baling it.

“This year, we were so dewy that it was really wet in the morning and it got really wet in the evening. So it was kind of hard to get the bales put up,” she said, adding that they want the bales free of moisture before hauling them off the fields.

Unlike some farmers and ranchers who might only make enough hay to feed their cattle for a year’s time, the Christmans prefer to make about three times more than they would actually feed. Jacki Christman noted that they also sell hay to her parents in South Dakota because they don’t have nearly as much hay ground. Other neighbors in Adams County also are regular hay buyers on a yearly basis.

“We try to have at least two years of hay in our hay lots at all times, just in case we have a drought, we have the hay there,” she said.

As far as a second cutting, the Christmans are looking for more rain if they’re to bale again before fall rolls around.

“It’s been so hot though, and we really need a rain,” Jacki Christman said. “I don’t know if we’ll end up getting a second cutting like we were hoping to or not. It might be just the bottom that we go cut again or the better stuff.”

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She added, “Those spring blizzards were really tough and people used a ton of hay to keep things fed and bedded. I do think that’s what started us off, getting such a good hay crop with them April blizzards because we need that moisture. Last year, we didn’t get the moisture until May and by then, our hayfields were already about shot. So this April blizzard really helped things get going.

“... I’m hoping everybody got a lot of hay put up because we sure dealt with a lot of misery to get it.”

Jordan and Jacki Christman's children stand in a hay field that is about to be put.
Jordan and Jacki Christman's children stand in a hay field that is about to be put.
Contributed / JC Farms
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