Changes in the marketplace have led David and Clyde Sharp to switch to 3 x 4 x 8’ high-density bales in 2012.

The Sharp Brothers, of Lyreedale Farms in Roll, AZ, raise alfalfa hay on 1,500 irrigated acres. Their primary market: Arizona dairies and beef feedlots. They also harvest wheat straw on 300 acres, most of which goes to construction companies for revegetation projects.

Traditionally, they baled 4 x 4 x 8’ large squares of hay. But “more and more of our customers want uniformity in the size of the bales they’re bringing in” – something high-density bales can provide, explains David Sharp. “It’s becoming an industry standard.”

High-density bales also make sense for straw baling. “You can get a little more material in each bale. That makes for a better payload going onto the trucks.”

The Sharps will start on their 10th alfalfa cutting of the year this week. If the weather stays mild, they could take one more cutting before year’s end.

They expect good production on that 10th cutting, but prices are up in the air, says Sharp. “Dairy producers are struggling financially. The market is not based as much on the amount of quality dairy hay that is available, but more on what the dairy farmers can afford to pay.”

Prices for beef-feedlot alfalfa started out at around $205/ton, then tapered to around $185/ton as the season progressed. “That’s pretty typical,” says Sharp. “The late-summer hay is not as good as the early summer hay. Overall, though, that’s a very strong price. It’s just not as good as it was a year ago.”

To contact the Sharps, call 928-785-9338 or email davidsharp@hughes.net.