North Dakota livestock producers facing critical feed shortages were happy to see prolonged stretches of sunny weather in late May and early June, reports Julie Ellingson, executive vice president of the North Dakota Stockmen’s Association. “People are anxious to get going on the hay harvest,” she says. “It was wetter and cooler than normal for most of May. But in the last week to 10 days, we’ve been getting some sunshine and things have started to dry out a little bit.”

Even so, Ellingson notes, the start of the haying season will likely be delayed in some areas. “It varies a lot depending on where you’re located in the state, but we typically look at the end of the first week of June as a starting point for making hay. This year it will probably be a week or more later than that in many areas.”

An extreme shortfall in the state’s hay supply started to develop with widespread drought conditions during last year’s growing season. “That really crimped production, so we were already very short heading into the winter,” says Ellingson.

A long winter featuring heavier-than-normal snows and extreme cold and heavy spring flooding forced livestock producers to delay turning animals out on pasture. “A lot of people were really hurting for feed coming out of the winter,” says Ellingson. According to USDA, hay stocks on North Dakota farms and ranches as of May 1 totaled just 700,000 tons, down 44% from year-earlier levels.

The state ag department, utilizing $750,000 in USDA grant funds and another $250,000 from the state legislature, has set up the North Dakota Livestock Feed Transportation Program. It’s aimed at helping livestock producers offset extraordinary feed-related expenses or losses related to the harsh winter and/or spring flooding. Eligibility details and an online application can be found at www.agdepartment.com. Application deadline is June 15.

To contact Ellingson, call 701-223-2522 or email jellingson@ndstockmen.org.