Ordinarily, the hay barns at the Don Brown Jr. farm near Davis, IL, would be nearly full at this point in August. But that’s not the case this year as Brown gears up to start a fourth cutting on 200 acres of an alfalfa-grass mixture. “Our inventory is not quite depleted,” he says. “But it is way down from normal.”

Strong demand by buyers fearing that hay won’t be available later in the season due to this year’s drought largely explains Brown’s situation. “The phone has been ringing pretty steady,” he says. “We’re hearing from people now who ordinarily wouldn’t be looking for hay until next April or May. A lot of people are concerned about having enough feed for their animals this winter.”

Along with the alfalfa-grass mix, Brown puts up grass hay – timothy, orchardgrass and bromegrass – on 160 acres. Most of his hay is packaged in 3 x 3 x 8’ bales, but he also makes round bales on order and buys and sells hay and straw. His market includes dairies and beef operations in Illinois, Wisconsin and Iowa and horse owners within a 150-mile radius of the farm.

Demand for beef hay has been especially strong. “With the dry weather we’ve had this year, nothing was put up coarse or late. We’re extremely short on beef hay. At the start of the season, we had some hay in the barns that was two, three and four years old. We sold it all. People were happy to get it.”

In early August, Brown, who is a past president of the Illinois Forage and Grassland Council, baled grass hay on 40 acres of released CRP ground. “As soon as we baled, it was sold.”

Prices for all kinds of hay have pushed upward in Brown’s area in recent weeks. Currently, second and third cuttings of alfalfa-grass mixes, with RFVs of 145 or higher, are bringing $240-300/ton at the barn. Good horse hay has been selling in the $180-250/ton range.

To contact Brown, call 815-238-8372 or email don.brownjr@yahoo.com.