FARMINGTON — After a long 12-hour day, the Hardy family finally sat down for supper at 9 p.m. Wednesday. The sun had been out for once and they had had to gather as much hay as they could — while they still could.

The family who operates the Hardy Farm in Farmington got a good start harvesting part of their first crop before it started raining early in June, Henry Hardy said. But, at the end of June, he was waiting for the rain to stop and the fields to dry out.

Usually the first crop is all harvested by July 4, said his wife, Theresa. Now the second crop is coming but they can’t get heavy machinery on to some fields … they are just too wet.

“Last year was terrible(for haying) and this year is not shaping up any better,” Henry said.

It’s a statement being heard from farmers all over the state.

“Because the rain has hampered farmers’ ability to harvest dry hay, we will probably be faced with both a reduced yield of hay for the year as well as very poor quality feed value for those producers who did not take advantage of the good weather we had at the end of May. Making hay now is more difficult due to the wet soils,” said Rick Kersbergen, University of Maine Cooperative Extension Professor.

Sawin Millett from Waterford who harvests dry, square bales and relies on the sun to dry his hay, only has about one third of his 60-acres mowed. He really needs two good solid days to make hay, he said.

“Usually I’d be two-thirds done by now but the problem is getting on to some of my fields,” he said.

Between showers, Leslie and Judy Smith, owners of More Acres Farm in East Dixfield, have been able to find time to harvest some round bales of what is called balage or silage hay.

It’s wilted and then tightly wrapped in plastic soon after cutting and makes very good feed, she said.

Turning or tethering to dry hay knocks off the leaves, which have the most nutrients, said John Donald owner of Triple D Acres in New Sharon. When the hay wilts and is wrapped for balage, you retain all the goodness, he said.

Balage is easier to put up, but farmers can only use so much of it, said Andrew Hardy, a recent graduate of the agriculture program at the University of New Hampshire. He is now working on his parents farm.

While good for dairy and beef cattle, balage is too potent for most other livestock such as sheep and horses who need dry hay, he said.

Waiting out the rain to harvest hay also jeopardizes the quality of the crop.

“Most hay crops should be harvested in late May or early June for optimum feed quality. Hay harvested in July has significantly reduced quality, as well as reducing the yield of subsequent (second cutting) crops,” Kersbergen said.

The costs facing farmers are twofold. Without enough hay or enough quality hay harvested, animal owners will have to supplement with grain, which is more expensive, Theresa Hardy said. At the same time, farmers may also face the loss of income from the hay they normally sell.

Roger and Gayle Smedberg, owners of Crystal Spring Farm in Oxford, plan to honor the orders they have for hay, Gayle said. They, like others, still have a lot of their first cutting to do and are facing the situation of a second crop ready for harvesting now also. Luckily, they cut quite a bit in May, said Gayle.

“It was the best start to haying in years but was short lived,” John Donald said. “It’s very stressful. I’m 63 but this is the worst year I can remember.”

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