There is a new (hay) king in town

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Richard Byrd/Columbia Basin Herald Kirk Jungers, left, representing the Mid-Columbia Basin Hay Growers Association, awards Travis Visker, of Haywire Farms, the title of 2017 Grant County Fair Hay King on Tuesday.

MOSES LAKE — Travis Visker is one of those types of people who quietly puts in countless hours of hard work each day. Visker’s coronation as the 2017 Grant County Fair Hay King on Tuesday was a chance for that hard work to be publicly recognized and validated in front of his farming peers.

Visker, who runs Haywire Farms, just south of Moses Lake off of state Route 17, with his father, farms just under 600 total acres. Almost half of the plot is dedicated to alfalfa, but Visker does dabble in corn and beans at the farm as well.

Haywire Farms narrowly missed out on the Hay King title, which is sponsored by the Mid-Columbia Basin Hay Growers Association, in past years. The contest features six different type of hay categories: three for alfalfa (including dairy, export and feed store grasses), domestic grass, export timothy and grass/legume mix. Visker and Haywire Farms came in atop the dairy alfalfa and feed store alfalfa groups.

“The season is still going and it’s been busy. We have had pretty good weather up until that smoke last week, which really kind of hurt us,” Visker remarked. “It was a tough winter, though. I spent all winter just shoveling snow and then it was really late for us getting out into the fields.”

Dairy alfalfa will typically find its way to high-producing dairy herds and must have the potential to produce a high milk output, all the while providing the highest rumen function, which relates to the fermentation chamber where plant fiber is broken down into small digestible components. Export alfalfa usually heads for dairy herds in Japan, Korea and Taiwan, while feed store alfalfa is primarily used by recreational horse owners.

Visker described the hay market over the last couple of years with one word: “disaster.”

“But it is starting to turn the corner. A lot of the problem was the port slowdown from a couple of years ago. So that really kind of stacked up inventories and the prices came down. This year’s crop is the first one to get us back into the right direction and hopefully we are about to turn that corner and get back to where we need to be.”

For Visker, farming has been a family affair over the years. After learning the trade from his father, Visker passed all that knowledge down to his own children in turn.

“My two oldest they actually run balers for me and they are pretty active in everything that we do. Even the younger kids are doing something. So we got them out pulling strings from broken bales and keeping the weeds down and stuff like that.”

Richard Byrd can be reached via email at city@columbiabasinherald.com.

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