North Carolina’s emergency hay program, which has been helping livestock owners meet their animals’ winter feeding needs, will begin to wind down in March.

Beginning Monday, March 3, the state’s six hay distribution sites will scale back sales to two days a week — Tuesdays and Thursdays — from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Starting March 17, the sites will sell hay on Tuesdays only. Hours will remain the same.

All sites will stop selling hay on April 1, but they will maintain a small inventory of large and small bales that can be used in an emergency.

“Our goal has been to help livestock owners make it through the winter, and we have been able to meet their needs,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler. “By extending sales until April 1, we are confident they will not be left without a safety net.”

In December, the Council of State unanimously authorized the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to use up to $3.5 million to purchase and transport hay to North Carolina, where it could be resold to farmers for the cost of the hay and transportation. As of mid-February, the program had spent about $345,000 and brought more than 1,750 tons of hay into North Carolina from several states and Canada.

Hay is being sold at the following NCDA&CS locations: Mountain Research Station, Waynesville, (828) 456-3943; Upper Mountain Research Station, Laurel Springs, (336) 982-2501; Piedmont Research Station, Salisbury, (704) 278-2624; Piedmont Triad Farmers Market, Colfax, (336) 605-9157; Caswell Research Farm, Kinston, (252) 208-3361; and Oxford Tobacco Research Station, Oxford, (919) 693-2483.

Livestock owners may purchase up to eight large bales and 60 small bales per day. Limits are subject to change depending on supply and demand.

Livestock owners interested in purchasing full loads of hay can use the NCDA&CS Hay Alert Web site and hotline. The department’s Ag and Equine Partners programs provide transportation cost-share assistance to livestock owners who source loads of hay themselves.

For information about NCDA&CS hay relief programs, go to www.ncagr.com/hayalert or call 1-866-506-6222 weekdays.