Timely rains in late August and early September were more than welcome at Ron Tombaugh’s farm in Streeter, IL.

“We got about 7” of rain and that really brought the crop on,” says Tombaugh. “We ended up with a fifth-cutting yield of 1.25 tons/acre. Actually, it looked more like a second cutting. It had a little bigger stem, but it was nice and soft and leafy.”

Mother Nature hadn’t been as kind through much of the summer. A fourth cutting, taken in early August, was especially hard hit by an extended stretch of hot, dry weather. “The plants were 4-6” tall and blooming out. We just went out and cut it and baled what we could find. But we didn’t get much.”

Overall, Tombaugh figures yield across his 120 acres of alfalfa ground were just a bit above 4.5 tons/acre for the season. “That’s about normal for us, but we generally do it in four cuttings.”

Tombaugh also custom harvests another 150 acres of alfalfa and buys 300 acres of standing grass hay. He bales around 1,000 acres of wheat straw.

His hay and straw are packaged in 3 x 4 x 8’ bales. Dairies in Illinois and neighboring states make up his primary market, but he also sells to the horse market in Alabama, Mississippi and other states in the southern U.S. “We’ll go wherever there’s a market,” says Tombaugh. He’s president of the National Forage Testing Association and is a past president of the National Hay Association and American Forage and Grassland Council.

Phone inquiries about hay for sale came in at a rapid clip early in the summer, but have backed off in recent weeks. “I think some of the rains we’ve had later in the summer have been slowing down the demand a bit.”

He doesn’t expect the lull to last long, though. “Later on, hay is going to be harder to find than ever. Because of the drought, the pipeline is virtually empty, especially for the good dairy hay.”

Currently, dairy-quality hay in Tombaugh’s area is selling for around $300/ton at the farm. “I don’t expect to see a lot of variation off that for awhile.”

To contact Tombaugh, call 309-531-4229 or email tombaugh@udnet.net.