Lighter-than-normal first-cutting yields, coupled with fewer hay acres, could continue to put upward pressure on prices in New York’s Finger Lakes Region, says grower Brian Bootes of Bootes Farms in Middlesex.

Hay, primarily timothy-alfalfa and orchardgrass-alfalfa, is the main enterprise at the farm that has been in the Bootes family since 1820. In a typical year, Bootes makes 20,000-25,000 small square bales weighing 60-65 lbs on 250 acres of hay ground. He markets most of his hay through a broker serving Northeastern horse owners. The farm also markets wheat and oat straw.

He’s not sure what’s behind the yield falloff, but suspects an early season outbreak of true armyworms may be playing a role. “We usually don’t have much trouble with them,” says Bootes. “But this year they’re doing a lot of damage. We’ve had to spray all of our wheat ground and several of our hayfields.”

Currently, top-quality grass-alfalfa hay is bringing $150-160/ton at the farm. “It’s about the same price as it was last year. But with yields down and more people taking hay ground out to plant corn again this year, the supply of hay around here is going to be short. If the price is going to go anywhere, I believe it will go up.”

To contact Bootes, call 585-554-3756 or email bbootes@frontier.com.