The bermudagrass crop at Tommy Jones’ Bell, FL, operation, called Top Quality Hay, was ready to cut around May 12. That’s about two weeks ahead of usual.

But yet another string of rains – including one in which 4.5” fell in 24 hours – kept him out of fields until late last week.

“It’s been something,” says Jones, who puts up small squares and large rounds on 400 acres. “We’ve had 25” of rain since the first of the year. Normal is more like 5 or 6”. Usually, this is our dry time of year.”

Sales over winter and spring had been “extremely slow” at the three to four feed stores that market most of Jones’ hay.

“The market just hasn’t been there,” he says. “Where we used to deliver two loads of hay in a month, now we’re just delivering one. There aren’t as many horses and cows in the area as there used to be. The economy has been so down in the last five or six years. People’s priorities for spending their money have changed.”

The demand turnaround brought major changes to Jones’ operation. “We used to put up 100,000 small squares a year,” he says. “Last year, we only made about 35,000 bales.”

If the market stays flat, Jones will strive to keep 2014 prices close to where they were last year. For small square bales weighing 45-50 lbs, he’ll charge $5-5.25/bale for semi-load orders and $6/bale for orders of 100 or fewer bales. For large rounds, the price will be $45-55/roll picked up in the field and $60/roll for hay that’s barn-stored.

To contact Jones, call 352-538-5665 or email topqualityhay@gmail.com.