Gayland Jones, Grand Meadow, MN, is putting up two bright-red hoop buildings this year that he'll use to store machinery and hay. He typically raises 80 acres of mostly an alfalfa, timothy and orchardgrass mix for horse owners. Some of that hay acreage was plowed up and "its nitrogen will feed a corn crop this year," he says. But he plans to seed the same amount back to hay.

"A quarterhorse breeder I've been trying to sell to for five years tried my hay this (past) year. He liked it so much, he became my biggest customer," Jones says. A few weeks ago, the breeder asked Jones if he could supply him with all the hay he wants this coming season. "I said, 'Sure, it should be no problem.' So what did he do? He bought 15 more mares."

Jones' southeastern Minnesota farm is nestled within a five-county area that pretty much stays green -- and wet -- even when the rest of the state is dry, he says. "We usually have quite a bit of rain. June can typically be wet. It starts to dry off around the Fourth of July." If the weather isn't right for a May cutting of hay or haylage, first cutting can be delayed until the first week in July. At Hay & Forage Grower's hay conference in Kansas City, Jones asked several growers and seed salesmen what kinds of horse hay will dry faster or can be baled earlier. This year he plans to add a tedder to follow the self-propelled windrower. "One of the new seedings this year will be with three-cut alfalfa mixed with late-heading orchardgrass and timothy," Jones says. He's hoping the mix will raise the quality of any late cutting.

Even so, the mix has been successful for Jones' customers -- and their horses, he thinks. "The horses just prance after eating that hay. It's three of the most palatable hays and the horses play, hold their heads high and enjoy life."

To contact Jones, call 507-754-5088.