BOZEMAN, Mont. -

Livestock producer Dave Tyler has raised sheep in the Gallatin Valley for more than two decades.

He grows hay to feed his sheep in the winter and pasture for them to graze in the spring and summer.

"We baled 370 bales this year on a field, two years ago, we baled 1,500 and that's the influence of multiple dry years," says Tyler.

Much of Tyler's pastures have natural, underground irrigation but that doesn't mean he doesn't need rain like the rest of the valley's farmers and ranchers.

"We always like rain. We always like moisture. Anyone who is dependent on what comes out of the ground likes to see reliable moisture," says Tyler.

At this point, Tyler says late season rains won't do much to help this year's hay crop but it will build up soil moisture for next year's crop and extend the grazing season.

Seven acres of grazing land will provide a week's worth of food for 170 sheep. After that, Tyler will have to move his sheep to a different pasture.

"10 or 15 years ago, we always used to graze into late November here and then we would begin feeding hay. For the last few years, we've started feeding hay in October and that's just because we ran out of grass," explains Tyler.

Even though Tyler grows his own hay, it still costs him money, machinery and time. It's time he could spend operating his wool mill.

"The more hay you have to put into livestock, whether they're sheep or cattle, the more you will have to be reimbursed if it's to pencil out and work for you," Tyler says.
It's why he hopes rain will help to extend the grazing season as long as possible.

Tyler tells us hay prices will be high this year and tough for those who have a lot of cattle to feed.