With hay prices strong, North American growers are reinvesting at least some of their profits in new equipment, says Dan Belzer, marketing director for Vermeer Corp, Pella, IA. Vermeer manufactures a full line of haying and hay handling equipment. “People see this as a smart time to utilize the dollars they’ve made this year to make improvement in their operations for the long term,” says Belzer.

Most noticeable, he says, is a growing appreciation for top-quality hay on the part of growers. “They’ve been seeing the value in high-quality hay and want equipment that will help them capture some of that value,” he says. “We’ve had a lot of interest in bale processors and round balers with scales and moisture sensors. Producers understand they have to know what is in that bale package in order to sell it a higher price.”

Derek Friesen, marketing director at PhiBer Manufacturing in Crystal City, Manitoba, notes that, as of the end of September, orders for PhiBer’s large square bale accumulators were running 100% ahead of year-earlier levels. The company also makes mergers, turners and bale processors. “It’s a very strong market right now,” says Friesen.

The flurry of activity has created a backlog throughout the marketing chain. “Suppliers are having a tough time keeping up,” says Friesen. “For example, we’ve been waiting up to six months for castings.” His advice to growers contemplating equipment purchases is to place orders early. “If you don’t order by Christmas on some product lines, you’re probably not going to get what you want in time for first cut,” he says.

Santiago Aguirre, sales consultant at Booth Machinery Inc., a Case IH dealership in Yuma, AZ, says he’s been advising customers that orders for tractors and other implements placed today may not be filled for four to six months depending on make and model. “Manufacturers are running on a really tight schedule, making what they need to fill orders and no more,” he says. “At the same time, most dealers are working to keep their inventories low. If I knew I needed something new, I wouldn’t wait too long to get my order placed.”

Keep in mind, though, specifics can vary widely among dealerships. Jay Monson of Value Implement, a New Holland dealership in Baldwin, WI, says late-arriving hay and forage equipment orders earlier this year have put his dealership in a good position to meet customer needs in late 2008 and early 2009. “We have a pretty good inventory on hand now, and it’s a better-priced inventory because everything has gone up since those shipments came in,” he says.

Contact Belzer by email at dbelzer@vermeer.com; Friesen at derek@phibercanada.com; Aguirre at saguirre@boothmachinerinc.com; and Monson at jmonson@valueimplement.com.