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Minnesotans "Make Hay" for Drought-Stricken Neighbors

Extreme drought in three states has caused a severe shortage of hay for ranchers and farmers. (Pixabay)
Extreme drought in three states has caused a severe shortage of hay for ranchers and farmers. (Pixabay)
August 28, 2017

FERGUS FALLS, Minn. -- Drought stricken farmers and ranchers in three states have until August 31 to enter a lottery for badly needed hay. The hay is coming from Midwestern states that have had more rain than the Dakotas and Montana.

Over the weekend, a Minnesota trucking company hauled 20 loads from Fergus Falls to the North Dakota State University campus in Fargo, where the hay is being stored. Justin Beyer with Beyer Towing has cattle himself. He said he decided to organize help early this summer when he went on a North Dakota vacation and saw how dry it was.

"Time donated, trucks donated, trailers donated - we have a bumper crop, so that's why it's an easy deal for a lot of these guys to get rid of hay here, and make it good for the guys out there that don't have any,” Beyer said.

The North Dakota Department of Agriculture is overseeing the hay lottery. Farmers in Montana and South Dakota are eligible to apply through their state's agriculture departments. The first drawings will be held in early September.

This year's drought started with the growing season back in May, and is the worst in more than ten years. Lack of rainfall has forced farmers to thin their cattle herds and will affect crop harvests this fall.

Greg Lardy, an animal science professor at North Dakota State University, said farmers who aren't used to asking for help are gratified by what's being called "Operation Haylift."

"I've talked to a number of livestock producers that are encouraged by the support that they see,” Lardy said. "Even though they may not be one of the lucky ones that gets a load of hay, it certainly lifts the spirits when they see efforts like this going on."

Lardy said a semi truckload of hay will feed 40 head of cattle for a month. He said the number of farmers who benefit will depend on how many sign up - and of course, more hay is needed.

North Dakota has set up a hotline for producers who need hay, or have hay to donate. That number is 701-425-8454.

Laurie Stern, Public News Service - MN