Siouxland farmers search for answers as drought causes shortage in hay

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GAYVILLE, S.D. (KCAU) — Nearly every acre of farmland in South Dakota is under drought conditions and relief doesn’t appear to be on the horizon. Farmers said they are already nervous about fall.

In Meckling, South Dakota, they market themselves as the ‘Hay Capital of the Universe,’ but the product that put this town on the map may be running short in supply.

“And if we don’t get some rain soon, there may not be a third cut, because the alfalfa will go dormant,” said John Marquardt, of Barnes Hay and Feed.

The numbers back the eye test, too.

Sioux City just wrapped up its driest June in 40 years and in southeastern South Dakota, conditions are even worse.

John Marquardt runs Barnes Hay and Feed in Gayville, South Dakota. He said the amount of hay that he normally imports has been nearly cut.

“The second cutting is about ready and in some places, it’s ready to be cut, but like I said earlier, it’s so short, it’s maybe 40 percent of what it should be,” said Marquardt.

Marquardt went through the process of taking an alfalfa hay bale and turning them into pellets, which are then sold by the ton to feed livestock at processing plants across the country. The bales are tested for quality control. Under normal operation, the mill produces more than 22,000 tons of pellets and ground meal a day.

But this summer, Marquardt has had to turn elsewhere.

“Out West River and western Nebraska, there’s not a lot of hay being sold out there, they’re keeping as much of that as they can to feed their livestock, also,” said Marquardt.

Some hay comes from 90 miles away from the mill. It’s still the ‘Hay Capital,’ but all that’s left for Marquardt is to hope for the best.

“Wherever it does rain helps, but it’s not the answer to what we need to have happen. We need some good, general rain so that the crops can flourish,” Marquardt said.

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