With first cuttings of hay occurring across the state and rainfall raising soil moisture levels, the North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services has been able to wrap up its hay relief programs.

“While many pastures still need renovation, and farmers still have a lot of recovering left to do, there are many encouraging signs that farms are on their way to returning to normal feeding operations,” said Agriculture Commissioner Steve Troxler.

During the Emergency Hay Program, the department sold 4,933 large hay bales and 26,995 small bales at six locations across the state. That amounted to about 2,700 tons of hay.

The department received approval from the Council of State to use up to $3.5 million as a revolving credit line to purchase and transport hay to North Carolina, where it could be resold to farmers for the cost of the hay and transportation. Statewide, the Emergency Hay Program spent nearly $532,000 to bring in hay from other states and Canada. The program ended in early May.

Other facts from the department’s hay relief efforts:

• The NCDA&CS Hay Alert Web site, which helps match hay buyers and sellers, had 290,000 visits from August to early May, and the Hay Alert hotline fielded 5,200 calls. The hotline has been deactivated, but the Web site is still available at www.ncagr.com/hayalert.

• The department’s transportation cost-share assistance programs helped livestock owners with the cost of trucking in hay to feed their animals during the drought. These programs paid a total of about $555,000 to farmers and ranchers. The programs were funded by a grant from the Golden LEAF Foundation, plus contributions by corporations, farm groups and individuals.

• Department staff logged more than 16,000 hours working on drought and hay assistance since last summer.

Troxler said the hay relief effort was successful because so many agencies, non-profit groups, companies and citizens worked together. “It’s been amazing to see the level of teamwork we achieved. For example, with the help of Cooperative Extension and North Carolina State University, we informed countless livestock owners about alternative forages through demonstrations at some of our research stations. We helped spur the movement of about 35,000 bales of corn fodder and soybean hay across the state,” he said.

“Through all these efforts and teamwork, we were able to prevent a major animal welfare crisis.”