Stevens Hay Farms takes Hay King title

For the Basin Business Journal | September 16, 2023 1:00 AM

MOSES LAKE — Award-winning hay is a matter of hitting the weather window.

Bill Stevens of Stevens Hay Farms said the weather has to be dry enough for freshly-cut hay, but not too dry.

“Dry enough to let the hay dry, but not a lot of humidity, say at night,” Bill Stevens said. “Too much humidity will bleach the hay before you get a chance to bale it.”

There’s a balance, he said.

“So you want a dry climate leading up to when you bale it, but then when you bale it you want a little more humidity to make the leaves stick,” Bill Stevens said.

Bill Stevens, his son Kye and Stevens Hay Farms of Soap Lake were named Hay Kings for 2023 by the Mid-Columbia Basin Hay Growers, an award announced on the first day of the Grant County Fair. It recognizes the farmer in Grant County with the best hay entered in the fair. Kirk Jungers, who organizes the contest, said it’s open to growers of export, dairy and feed store alfalfa.

Bill Stevens said Kye Stevens oversees the baling crew, usually an overnight operation.

“He’s up all night, checking the hay, and then he’s got to call the baler operators the minute it’s just right - or a little bit before because you don’t want to be late, either,” Bill Stevens said.

Timing is very important, Kye Stevens said, and also matters before the hay is cut.

“From first to second (cutting) you want about 28 to 30 days,” Bill Stevens said. “It was cut on time, the right maturity of the plant. We had a good weather window.”

And timing matters when it comes to hay lying in the field.

“It was probably put up in five days,” Bill Stevens said. “You want to rake it on time, because after about the third day it’s going to start to bleach.”

Farmers have to adapt to the conditions Mother Nature gives them, adapting their operations to the right time, the right wind and relative humidity conditions - a partnership, in a way.

“Mother Nature is the boss,” Bill Stevens said.

“You’ve got to navigate - and no two fields are the same,” he said. “You think you’ve got it figured out - well, different elevations, even on your own farm, different wind currents where you’re at on the farm. Every field you’ve got to treat differently.”

Stevens Hay Farms focuses on the dairy market, Bill Stevens said, both domestic and export. Dairy farmers have specific requirements, which in turn require close attention to detail, he said.

Cheryl Schweizer may be reached via email at