The market for quality horse hay remains strong in central Kentucky, reports Lexington grower Todd Clark of Clark Farms.

Across the board, he says, prices for both alfalfa and grass hay in 50-lb, small square bales are running $1-2/bale higher in his area than they were a year ago. Currently, small squares of first-cutting mixed-grass hay are bringing a minimum of $4/bale, while high-quality alfalfa is fetching $7-8.

A shortfall in the regional supply of quality hay is a key factor in keeping the price high. “It was an outstanding year for growing hay in our area,” says Clark. “But for actually making hay, it wasn’t so good. It was one of the wettest years on record. All season long, it seemed like every third day we’d get just enough rain to keep us out of the field. The haymaking opportunities were few and far between.”

Clark puts up alfalfa-orchardgrass hay on 75 acres and mixed-grass hay – orchardgrass, bluegrass, fescue and red clover – on another 225 acres. Pleasure-horse owners in the Lexington area are his target market. He also custom bales for a half-dozen or so horse farms, ranging from 5 to 250 acres, in the area.

While most of his production goes to small squares, Clark also makes 4 x 5’ and 4 x 6’ round bales. “In the last few years, we’re seeing a lot more acceptance of the round bales by horse people,” he notes. “A lot of that was driven by the downturn in the economy. People realized that they could often get a better buy on the round bales.”

In turn, that acceptance has helped strengthen round bale prices. “Four or five years ago, just about all of the round bales of mixed-grass hay in this area were selling for $20/bale regardless of quality or size of the bale,” Clark notes. “Now, if a round bale is net-wrapped, stored inside and is of good quality, you’re looking at $50/bale. At the low end of the market, they’re still at $30/bale.” Contact Clark at 859-621-6471 or Clarkfarms@twc.com.

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