A shortage of good-quality horse hay continues to put upward pressure on prices in Kentucky and neighboring states, reports grower Clayton Geralds, Munfordville, KY.

Geralds; his wife, Molly; and their son, Christopher, grow alfalfa, alfalfa-grass mixes and timothy on 600 acres. They market to horse owners in Kentucky, Georgia, Florida and elsewhere in the eastern U.S.

Currently, Geralds reports, good-quality hay in local markets – within 150 miles of his farm – is bringing $300-350/ton delivered to the buyer. Medium-quality crop is fetching $250-270/ton.

A prolonged stretch of dry weather during the growing season helps explain the short supply heading into winter. “We had plenty of moisture in the spring, almost too much, and we also had a near-perfect fall. In the middle of the summer, though, it was extremely dry. And that really set us back on production. Throughout the area, yields were off by about 20%. We put up 81,000 bales in 2010. This year, it was closer to 60,000.”

Demand has been running strong as well. “We’re getting three or four calls a week from people wanting to buy hay. We’ve had to tell people that we aren’t taking on new customers because we need to make sure we can fill orders for our existing customers. It’s awfully early in the year to be in that kind of situation. It wouldn’t be unusual in March, but it is in December.”

He looks for prices to remain strong through the winter months and well into next year. “A lot depends on input costs and weather. But I really can’t see prices going down any. (The market) will hold its own."

To contact Geralds, call 270-528-1238 or email cgeralds@hotmail.com.