The 2012 hay-growing season brought home a simple bit of truth for Ayr, ND, grower George Pilgrim: “Hay doesn’t grow without moisture.”

In a typical year, he puts up alfalfa hay in 3 x 3 x 8’ bales on 800 acres, aiming for a 4-ton/acre yield. This year, Pilgrim figures yields were closer to 2.5 tons/acre. “It really started drying out last fall. We didn’t get any rain from August on. This winter, we didn’t have anything for snow.

“So we started dry and then we stayed dry all through the summer. We were able to get three cuttings like we normally do, but they were extremely light.”

Pilgrim’s target market: Wisconsin dairies. For this year’s crop, he raised prices by $15/ton over last year’s. “I’m sure I could get a lot more than that on the open market, given some of the prices I’ve been hearing. But I want to keep my dairy customers.”

Pilgrim is currently mulling over whether to take some hay acres out of production in 2013. “It all depends on how much moisture we get from this point on,” he says. “If it stays dry, we’ll break up the hay ground and plant grain. The federal crop insurance for hay really doesn’t amount to anything. The only way to survive these days is to take that hay land out and put in corn.”

To contact Pilgrim, call 701-793-6671.