Ordinarily, 14” of precipitation over a five-day period during the hay harvesting season wouldn’t be a good thing. But Tommy Jones was smiling after Tropical Storm Debby dumped that much rain on his 400 acres of bermudagrass near Bell, FL, near the end of June.

Jones, who operates under the Top Quality Hay business name, makes large round and small square bales. He markets the bulk of his production to four feed stores within 150 miles of his farm.

“We definitely needed it,” Jones says of the prolonged, intense downpour. “The hay was looking terrible. We had put up about 250 acres of first crop before the rain started, and we were only getting about 35 bales to the acre. Ordinarily, on first crop, we’ll get 90-100 bales/acre. Now, with all the rain we’ve had, it’s starting to look pretty good again.”

Tight supplies in the region have put upward pressure on prices. “A lot of hay out of this area went to Texas last year, and we didn’t have any kind of surplus coming out of the winter. We were all cleaned out, and it looks like we’ll be short again this year.”

For small square bales weighing 45-50 lbs, Jones is getting $5-5.25/bale. That’s up from $4.50/bale last year. He says part of the increase is due to supply and demand. “But our costs, especially fertilizer, have gone up, too.”

For large rounds, he’s charging $60 for single rolls stored in the barn, $45-50/roll for semi-load sales. Last year his top price was $40/roll.

Even with the short-supply situation, he believes prices may already be peaking. “If prices go too much higher, people will start going to other feed sources,” he says.

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