While overabundant moisture this growing season has posed a major challenge for haymakers in areas stretching from the Pacific Northwest through the Upper Midwest, producers in parts of the eastern U.S. have been battling heat and lack of precipitation.

“Things around here are pretty brown,” says Tyrone Fisher. He’s executive director for North Carolina Extension in Warren County, one of 18 counties in the state listed as being in moderate drought by the U.S. Drought Monitor.

Fisher reports that hay growers had adequate moisture for putting up a good first crop of fescue and bermudagrass at the end of May and into early June. Since then, though, rain has been hard to come by and temperatures have climbed. “As a result, we haven’t seen much in the way of growth,” he says. “Our second cutting is definely at risk.”

He’s advising livestock producers and horse owners who buy most of their hay to start thinking about contacting potential suppliers. “You need to start lining up resources and have a backup plan,” he says. “You don’t want to have only one source for all your hay needs.”

As one resource, he recommends checking out the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services’ Hay Alert Web site. Along with listings of hay sellers and buyers, the site also carries information on transportation arrangements.

Below-normal rainfall coupled with fairly high temperatures throughout June and early July also crimped hay production in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley. Tom Stanley, agriculture agent for Virginia Extension in Rockbridge County, says the first-crop hay harvest was off by 30-40%. “And, to this point, second-crop regrowth has been negligible,” he says.

Some areas got as much as 2” of rain right after the Fourth of July. “But the showers were pretty isolated. Even the areas that got rain are still behind for the summer.”

Stanley says livestock producers and horse owners who typically purchase 50-100% of their hay supplies for winter feeding should be checking with their suppliers soon about availability. “You need to be looking in the market,” he says.

Conditions are similar in parts of Maryland, reports Les Vough, retired University of Maryland Extension forage specialist. He notes that, as of early June, alfalfa was wilting in parts of the Eastern Shore. “Our late second cutting and third cutting could be on the short side,” he says.

Parts of the state did get some relief last week with rainfalls of an inch or more. “It was good to get the rain,” says Vough. “But the ground is so dry, it didn’t really do that much good. Last week we had 100-degree temperatures with low humidity and wind. Any moisture that was in the ground pretty much was sucked right out. And there is talk of another heat wave this week.”

On the upside, he notes that long-term weather forecasts are calling for the region to receive above-normal precipitation in late July and August. “We’re still in midsummer, so there is time to recover. If we get the rain, we’ll be in good shape. If it continues to be this dry, we’ll be in trouble.”

To contact Fisher, phone 252-257-3640 or email tyrone_fisher@ncsu.edu. Stanley can be contacted at 540-820-8631 or stanlyt@vt.edu, while Vough can be reached at 301-405-1322 or vough@umd.edu.