Hay Quality, Volume Variable So Far This Year

You can find excellent hay and poor hay in the same locale.

Published on: Jul 16, 2009

Two years ago a late April freeze and dry early summer made hay scarce, driving prices to formerly unheard of prices of $8.50 per small square bale or higher. Prices moderated last year with somewhat better supply. While it's too early to get a good handle on hay prices yet this year, it appears they will be reasonable, at least compared to the '07 price explosion

The line on the hay season in Indiana so far from those who makes hay seems to be that volume is good, but quality varies depending upon if you were able to get it cut on time, and then if you were able to get it up without getting it wet. The same wet spring and early summer that's bumped up hay volume has also made it more difficult to cut hay when it should be cut, and then get it baled without it getting wet. Even some days that haven't been full of rain have been overcast and cool, with little sun. That doesn't favor good haymaking.

One central Indiana haymaker says it's a frustrating season. He typically cuts 50 acres at a time, then round bales part of it and square bales the rest in small, traditional square bales. "I set out to cut 50 acres just last week because they weren't calling for rain for several days. Before I got finished mowing, they had changed the forecast and had showers in for just a couple days out. As it turned out, it did rain. Fortunately, I stopped and didn't could as much hay as I had intended to."

The sell-off of horses last winter seemed to soften hay sales in late winter, especially for people who sold mostly to horse customers. Some backed out on hay orders completely. That situation heated up and become an issue after the U.S. decided to no longer allow horses to be sold for meat in this country. It's still legal in other countries, however. But the bottom line is that people who can't get much for older horses that they kept around for pleasure have decided they're not worth feeding, so they're not keeping them and not buying hay.

"I'm going to have to look seriously at whether I stay in business another year or not," one prominent young hay farmer in Indiana says. "I might be better off selling my hay equipment and concentrating on growing corps, especially since I grow seed wheat and some other specialties."