A severe armyworm outbreak this year forced Alabama hay grower Thomas Ridgeway to slightly bump up prices on small square bales of bermudagrass he sells to a mostly local, horse-owner market.

“We ended up spraying some fields six times,” says Ridgeway of Circle R Farms near Fyffe. “In a typical year where we have an armyworm problem, we might spray one or two times.”

Most years, the grower takes about 10,000 small square bales, weighing 50-55 lbs each, off the 84 acres he devotes to bermudagrass. Due mostly to the insect outbreak, this year he put up just under 9,000 bales.

Ridgeway increased prices by 25¢/bale. He charged $4.75/bale for hay out of the field and $5/bale for barn-stored hay.

“It wasn’t that much of a jump, but it was something we had to do. When you have to spray as often as we did, the pesticide costs really add up in a hurry. Our customers understood. A lot of them are used to seeing the prices charged for hay in some urban markets. Even with our increase, they’re still able to get their hay cheaper from us than they can elsewhere.”

He didn’t have armyworm problems on the 600 acres of cool-season grass hay he put into net-wrapped 4 x 5’ round bales to sell in local beef markets. He’s currently getting $28-30/roll for cool-season grass hay picked up in the field. (Price depends on how many bales the customer buys.) For bermudagrass rounds, he’s charging $50/roll. That’s up about $5/roll from last year’s price.

Right now, Ridgeway has roughly 2,000 small squares in the barn. He also has “a couple hundred” net-wrapped large rounds for sale. “That’s pretty typical for this time of year. We usually get a little lull at the end of the harvest season. Then business picks up after we get a good cold snap.”

Ridgeway can be contacted at 256-601-6120 or satch_a_mo@yahoo.com.