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Hay growers: the unsung heroes of Idaho's dairy industry

Hay growers the unsung heroes of...

BANNOCK COUNTY, Idaho (KIFI/KIDK) - Idaho dairy production has increased dramatically over the past two decades. The 2017 Census of Agriculture, which comes out every seven years, confirms the growing trend.

However, the dairy industry would not be anywhere without the Idaho hay farmers in southeast Idaho.

“Most of the dairies themselves are in Twin Falls, Burley, and those surrounding counties,” extension educator for the University of Idaho, Reed Findlay, said.

Dairy production in the Gem State has increased consistently over the past 25 years. With another dairy processing plant moving into the Twin Falls area, it doesn’t look like it’s slowing down any time soon.

“That’s where the [dairy industry] main nucleus is, and of course, the dairies have to be fed by alfalfa growers,” Findlay said.

Though many cows feed on grain and corn, the alfalfa hay is the most coveted in southeast Idaho. Fred Burmester, a longtime hay grower in south Bannock County, says southeast Idaho is an ideal climate for hay growing.

“In this area especially, it’s our elevation. It makes the relative feed quality of the hay, the alfalfa hay, higher and that’s what the dairies would like,” Burmester said.

Idaho exported $356 million worth of dairy products in 2017, making Idaho the fourth-largest dairy state in the U.S. However, according to Findlay, it’s the hay growers who feed their success.

“If you include the value of the alfalfa hay, that you are using on your farm to the sales of the dairy industry, then alfalfa would be one of the main economic drivers in Idaho,” Findlay said.

Fred Burmester, a longtime hay grower in south bannock county, says southeast Idaho is an ideal climate for hay growing.

“In this area especially, it’s our elevation. It makes the relative feed quality of the hay, the alfalfa hay, higher and that’s what the dairies would like,” Burmester said.

Idaho exported $356 million worth of dairy products in 2017, making Idaho the fourth largest dairy states in the U.S. However, according to Findlay, it’s the hay growers that feed their success.

“If you include the value of the alfalfa hay, that you are using on your farm to the sales of the dairy industry, then alfalfa would be one of the main economic drivers in Idaho,” Findlay said.


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