While horse-hay prices in the region have been pushing up steadily this fall, hay grower Phil Saunders of Sugar Creek Farm near Dansville, NY, believes a market top may be near.

Saunders has been selling the high-quality timothy hay he produced on 400 acres for around $240/ton. That’s $30/ton higher than year-ago prices.

He relies on brokers to market most his hay, packaged in small square bales weighing 60-65 lbs, to the East Coast horse-owner market. “Prices might move a little higher, but I don’t see them going much above $250,” says Saunders, noting that out of the 30,000 bales he made this year, he still has 18,000 for sale. “When they hit that level, we’ll start seeing some price resistance. Times are tough, and horse owners are feeling strapped just like everyone else. At a certain point, they’ll start substituting other feeds for hay.”

Typically, Saunders uses four or five brokers to market his product. “My time is budgeted pretty tightly, especially in the summer. The broker takes care of finding the customers, arranging the trucking and loading the hay onto the trucks. I can use the time I save on those chores to focus on growing and harvesting my hay.”

Best of all, Saunders says, working with a broker cuts down on the risk of not being paid. “In New York, brokers have to be registered,” he says. “If they don’t pay their suppliers, they can lose their licenses. On the other hand, if I were to sell my hay directly to someone in another state and they decided not to pay, there wouldn’t be a lot I could do to get my money.”

Contact Saunders at 585-335-8664 or email haygrower@rocketmail.com.