After an extremely hot and dry summer, plentiful rainfall in the last several weeks was welcome in West Tennessee. In his Oakland area, reports hay grower Larry Jones, 4” of rain fell during the third week of August and another 2” dropped over the Labor Day weekend. But the region is still 17” below normal for 2012.

“Things did green up some with the rain,” he says. “But for our bermudagrass, it came too late to help anything.”

Jones annually puts up small and medium square bales as well as large rounds of bermudagrass hay on 400-500 acres. He sells mainly to stables and pleasure-horse owners within 30 miles of nearby Memphis.

In a typical year, he takes three to four bermudagrass cuttings. This year, Jones took only two cuttings off some fields and one off others. Overall, yields have been just 25-50% of normal, the grower figures.

He’s getting $5/bale for small-square, two-tie bales, each weighing 50-55 lbs. That’s at the farm. For hay he delivers locally, he charges $5.50/bale.

Coupled with rising grower-input costs, the regional production shortfall this year would justify even higher prices, says Jones, who is on the National Hay Association board. “There’s a lot more demand than there is supply.”

At the same time, he doesn’t want to price himself out of the market. “With the tough economy, a lot of the training barns and stables in our area are under a strain. They really can’t afford to pay much more for feed. A lot of backyard horse owners are really scratching just to get by. We’re seeing a lot more of them buying round bales now because they see it as more economical. Just four to five years ago, a lot of them wouldn’t have dreamed of feeding a round bale.”

To contact Jones, call 901-229-0720 or email gjones13@bellsouth.net.