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Third cutting winds down for Joe Dooling
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Third cutting winds down for Joe Dooling


Joe Dooling

HELENA, Mont. – Since the second week of June, Joe Dooling has pretty much been haying non-stop. Hundreds of acres and three cuttings later, the end is finally in sight.

“I’ve got my last 100 acres left to bale,” Joe said triumphantly during a phone update on Sept. 29.

He has been throwing every resource he has available towards his hay crop this year with the ultimate goal of pushing the yield. Thankfully, his federally-guaranteed water was a huge help during this unseasonably hot and dry summer and his first and second cutting yields ran at average or just above. Unfortunately, the first full week of September threw a cold snap at the Helena Valley and consequently impacted Joe’s third cutting yield. 

“Third cutting has been running just slightly behind last year’s,” he said.

Joe admits, this is the longest he has ever hayed before. It is just the way the year played out, but he is absolutely more than ready to put his swather, rakes, and baler away for the season. Of course, just because the haying equipment is put away doesn’t automatically mean that Joe will be devoid of haying duties. He still has to deliver all the hay he put up.

In addition to wrapping up this third cutting, Joe has been working on his barley contract for next year. He uses malt barley for a rotational crop with his alfalfa, so every year he has to evaluate how his alfalfa fields produced and determine if the ground could benefit from having barley grown in it. He also has to weigh the price of hay versus the price of malt barley.

The drought this year resulted in a huge malt barley shortage. With that knowledge in mind, he is thinking he may put a few more acres into malt barley next spring.

“Next year’s prices are looking pretty strong, so I think next year will be a good year to grow malt barley,” Joe added.

With his tractor time winding down, Joe will soon be turning his attention to the cow side of his operation. His pairs up in Augusta were scheduled to come home the first full week of October, so that means his entire cow herd is now back in the Helena Valley. With plenty of cow work coming up, Joe is very glad for the beautiful Indian summer his area of Montana has been experiencing. Comfortable weather makes fall cattle work all the more pleasant, that is for sure.

With several hours of tractor and trucking time these past few months, Joe has had plenty of time by himself to think. Although his first passion is for production agriculture, he also has a deep interest in politics. He ran for Montana’s U.S. Congress seat in 2020, and although he wasn’t elected, Joe still has a desire to serve his fellow Montanans.

Joe just finished interviewing for a position on the Montana Stockgrowers Association Board of Directors and he is also contemplating running for a statewide political position, as well. Although farming in Helena on the urban interface has its challenges, it is also mighty convenient if you have a knack for politics.

The Prairie Star Weekly Update

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