Oct. 18, 2016 08:00 AM

Visits to Montana and Vermont

Emily Glunk
Extension forage specialist
Montana State University

Plentiful rains toward the end of the summer and heading into fall have put many producers in Montana in excellent shape for pasture and hay availability. After the long, dry summer, soils are getting closer to being recharged, setting up forage stands fairly well for the next spring.

Many areas in Montana already received significant amounts of snowfall, with some in the higher elevations and northern parts of the state receiving close to a foot. In the lower elevations, and southern part of the state, warm temperatures have melted most of the snow, but nighttime temperatures are still well below freezing. Many producers are waiting for about another week when temperatures reach a more consistent level before they move to their winter grazing pastures.

Some areas had up to 3 inches of rain in the middle of this month, decreasing hay movement and demand. Producers who took a late last cutting had some issues with the rain during baling, but for the most part much of the hay put up in late summer was good quality. Hay is starting to move around the state, but demand is still relatively low. Prices are fairly close to normal, with some alfalfa being priced a little lower and many ranchers are looking at grass hay for winter feeding.

Overall, forage availability and production look pretty typical for this fall. Many areas were able to rebound from the summer drought with the rainfall that has been received recently, helping to set them up for a successful winter grazing season going into next spring.

Sid Bosworth
Extension forage specialist
University of Vermont

Overall, we are ending the season with a soil moisture deficit across New England; however, for most of Vermont and northern New Hampshire and Maine, it has been a good year for forages.

Grass growth has been good this fall with a warmer than normal September and early October. This has helped with an autumn hay harvest and extra pasture that is much appreciated after such a slump this summer. In our major dairy regions, farmers took four cuttings of hay and/or haylage this year and quality should be good to excellent. Hay yields will be a little lower than most years, primarily due to a poor second cut.

Much of our corn silage is now chopped and stored; reports are that yields are very good to excellent except in the driest portions of the region. I think overall that we'll be going into the winter with good forage inventory; however, in the driest parts of the region, particularly in southeastern parts of Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine, hay yields are estimated to be about 25 to 30 percent below normal and corn silage yields may be half of normal. So, inventory may be low for many of these farms. It’s been a mixed year but a good year in much of Vermont.