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Tri-State hay crop called shabby

June 23, 1997

By CLYDE FORD

Staff Writer, Charles Town

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. - Boonsboro, Md., farmer Jere DeBaugh calls his alfalfa crop "sort of shabby," but with the weather conditions he's happy with it.

"In a dry year, I'll take what ever I can get," DeBaugh said.

Throughout the Tri-State area, farmers are mowing their fields to bale the timothy and alfalfa grasses into hay.

But because of the cool, dry spring, many farmers are looking at below average yields, farmers and an agricultural official said.

Jefferson County Extension Agent Craig Yohn said it is too early to say how the rest of the year will shape up.

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Farmers are reporting the hay crop is yielding about two tons per acre, slightly more than half of what a normal yield would be, he said.

The hay crop is important to beef and dairy farmers, who use the hay to feed their cattle.

If they do not have enough hay, the farmers have to buy feed for their cattle at a time when the prices are low for milk and beef, meaning their costs go up at a time when their sales are down.

Mercersburg, Pa., farmer John Stoner said his hay crop is doing alright, but many of his friends in the farming business have seen less of a yield.

"You're never going to get the same each year," Stoner said.

Stoner said he was able to get a good first cutting of hay and is getting ready to do a second cutting.

Many farmers are reporting less of a crop this year because they're comparing it to last year, Stoner said.

Last year was a tremendous year for growing hay because it had been wetter than normal, he said.

"As long as we get the rain on it with the heat we have it'll grow," Stoner said.

Yohn said he's concerned that only "spotty rainfall" has put Jefferson County about a 33 percent below normal in precipitation.

"And that doesn't bode well for the remainder of the summer," Yohn said.

Hagerstown has had 14.85 inches of rain so far this year.

DeBaugh said he is getting ready for another cutting of alfalfa. In a good year, farmers can get four to five cuttings of hay from a field, he said.

After the first cutting, a good rainfall is needed to help the grass spring back up, DeBaugh said.

So far, he's still waiting for a good rain to happen, he said.

The dry conditions also have slowed the growth of the corn crop, DeBaugh said.

Corn is not as high as it should be this time of year, though there is still time in the growing season for it to catch up if enough rain falls, he said.

"That's one of the things about our occupation. We can't go out there and turn it on and turn it off," DeBaugh said. "We've got to wait for the weather."

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