Nearly ideal weather for making hay had many growers in northwestern Montana smiling during first-crop harvest this year, according to Pat McGlynn, ag agent for Montana State University Extension in Flathead County.

“The heat came on early, with temperatures in the mid-eighties in May,” she says. “We had really good rainfall. But it wasn’t so rainy that people couldn’t get their herbicides and fertilizers applied when they needed to. And we had some long stretches of great drying weather after hay was cut. It was just about perfect.”

As a result, many area growers reported yields of three tons/acre or more on the mixed hay – consisting of alfalfa, orchardgrass, timothy and brome – that’s predominant in the area. Two-ton yields are more the norm, says McGlynn.

Even with ample production, hay prices are likely to remain strong, she adds.

“Prices took off here last year. We were shipping out a lot of hay to eastern Montana and eastern Oregon where they had extreme wildfires. Some of that hay was sold standing in the field. Later in the year, a lot of hay from here was moving to New Mexico and Texas because of the drought. A number of growers were able to get contracts with buyers from those areas again this year.”

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Currently, small and large square bales in the area are selling for $150-160/ton. “It’s selling for a little less if it’s packaged in big round bales or if local buyers are picking it up in the field right behind the baler,” says McGlynn.

Her bottom line: “We’re getting a bumper crop, but people are standing in line to buy it. That’s a good situation for growers to be in.”

To contact McGlynn, call 406-758-5553 or email

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