Farmers can harvest hay from selected state-owned lands in counties where Gov. Scott Walker declared a state of emergency as a result of flooding and where the U.S. Department of Agriculture has declared a natural disaster as a result of winter-kill and excessive rain and snow, Department of Natural Resources Secretary Cathy Stepp announced July 17.
Farmers may also graze cattle on state-owned land, although they will be responsible for setting up temporary electric fencing and watering tanks to facilitate grazing.
“The department is making available what hay growing on state properties it can to the public,” said Stepp. “Individual farmers will be limited to 20 acres, and the hay will be available without a fee on a first come, first served basis.”
This special harvest has been initiated in order to provide some relief for Wisconsin farmers dealing with feed shortages as a result of extreme weather, according to Stepp. Lands affected by this special offering are not normally harvested for hay.
The harvest window for cool season grasses ends Aug. 30, and Aug. 10 for prairie grasses. DNR is limiting haying and grazing to this time period to allow for adequate regrowth of the grass to provide habitat for wildlife and hunting cover to sportsmen and women in the fall. Only one cutting of hay will be allowed during the harvest window. DNR staff identified approximately 300 fields totaling 5,300 acres of hay that could be made available.
Farmers participating in the program will be required to sign an agreement specifying that the hay taken from state-owned property will be used for livestock and not sold.
Farmers interested in grazing or harvesting hay can find more information by searching the DNR website dnr.wi.gov for keywords “hay harvest” or call DNR customer service toll free at 1-888-WDNRINFo (1-888-936-7463), seven days a week from 7 a.m.-10 p.m.