Hay quality is up while quantity is down in central Indiana, says Dennis Heaton, owner of Agri Venture Hay Farms, Russiaville. He grows 600 acres of alfalfa/orchardgrass hay in partnership with his cousin, Gayle McMinn, and sells big and small square bales to horse owners. "Our year started pretty rough like everyone else's, but we finished up a little better than average," he relates. "Overall we are still down in production by 35-40%. Our quality is up this year due to low humidity and dry weather during baling." Hay production is down by as much as 60-70% just south and east of him, particularly in Ohio, he says. Although he has had to raise prices, some customers understand that that's because fuel and fertilizer prices have almost tripled, he says.
Heaton's horse customers are located around Savannah, GA, and Hilton Head Island, SC. He finds new customers by word of mouth and by advertising on Internet sites. Hay is delivered in his own semi trucks and trailers. "We make every effort to put up the best hay around and concentrate on increased leaf retention," he says. Heaton has seeded an additional 150 hay acres for next year.
Contact Heaton at 765-883-5033 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Contact McMinn at 765-883-7349.
There is a high demand for dairy hay at the Dyersville Sales Co. hay auction, which draws people from Iowa, Wisconsin and Illinois, says Dale Leslein, its hay manager. "We have a very good supply of non-dairy-quality hay and a shortage of top-end hay, which means lots of out-of-state buyers are coming into the auction and taking the big squares back to Southeastern drought states," he says. "Top-end dairy hay is being shipped in and has already sold up to $220/ton in large squares. Right now, non-dairy hay in large squares is selling for about $1-1.10 for each RFV point, while dairy hay is around $1.25/point of RFV. All round bales are being sharply discounted -- the bulk are from $75 to $110/ton."
Leslein fears local buyers will be pushed out of the non-dairy, large-square bale market and have to resort to buying cheaper round bales. "Local dairies will pay up for the top-end dairy hay in any package," he notes. "I look for a lot of year-end buying by dairy cattle farmers this year due to record milk prices. But the high in dairy hay won't be seen until February or March, when the booming dairy goat industry gets rolling."
He expects another big drop in hay acres next year, even with good hay prices. "Hay prices are not high enough to buy hay acres," he says. "In the past two years, corn, wheat and soybean prices have all doubled, but hay hasn't kept up. With land costs and fuel prices out of control, a lot of farmers are going to be forced out of the hay business and will switch to less-expensive crops like wheat or beans." Leslein predicts producers will take the nitrogen credit from hay to plant corn. "One farmer told me today he made $150/acre more on his beans than he did on his hay, with 23 fewer trips across the field," Leslein relates.
Learn more about the Dyersville Hay Auction online at www.dyersvillesales.com/content/hay_auction.html. Contact Leslein at 563-875-2481.