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Hay King Travis Herring excels despite bad season

| September 1, 2022 1:00 AM

MOSES LAKE — There’s always plenty of work to do on a farm.

“You always have something to do,” said Travis Herring. “You open the door to your pickup or the house and you look out and there’s always something that needs to be done. So you can stay busy.”

He grinned slightly.

“You know, as busy as you want to stay,” he added.

Raising two small daughters, Cheyenne and MacKenzie, with his wife Jennifer and the family farm north of George, Herring said he manages to stay fairly busy, especially with the kids now starting to raise animals.

The Herrings were named this year’s Hay King (and Queen) by the Mid-Columbia Basin Hay Growers on the first day of this year’s Grant County Fair for the alfalfa and timothy he grows on his family’s farm, where he also raises sweet corn, lima beans and runs cattle.

It’s an annual event, one Herring said he received the title previously in 2019. Herring said he raises a lot of alfalfa hay for local dairies, though some gets processed for export.

“All grades, but most of it’s dairy,” he said.

While he’s been named this year’s Hay King — the farmer in Washington’s Grant County with the best hay — Herring said heavy rains this spring weren’t very good for the hay, and he’s been glad he has his own cattle so there’s something to eat up his junk hay.

“There's a lot of really bad hay,” he said. “I mean, this year, a ton of bad hay.”

The water prompts growth, and too much water means too much growth, effectively diluting the nutrients. As a result, there wasn’t a lot of high-value hay grown in the Columbia Basin this year.

“When they test this, my hay, they base it on relative feed value,” he said. “The higher the value, the more milk they can get out of the hay. The lower the value, the less milk. Well, what rain does is it washes that real good value out.”

However, with prices rising as much as they have, Herring said it doesn’t matter as much as it might in previous years. Demand was still solid and prices were higher than they might otherwise be.

“This year, it's worth quite a bit of money. Normally, it's not worth that much,” he said. “But with inflation, everything else that's going on in the world right now. The demand on alfalfa was very strong, very strong.”

Charles H. Featherstone can be reached at cfeatherstone@columbiabasinherald.com.

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