Even with a drop in hay production, New York hay grower Brian Bootes was more than satisfied with how 2012 turned out.

“We were dry early in the year and also had some unusual problems with armyworms, so we were down about 3,000 bales on our first cutting,” says Bootes, of Bootes Farms in Middlesex. “But demand has been strong and prices were good. Overall, we had a pretty good year.”

Bootes puts up timothy-alfalfa and orchardgrass-alfalfa hay on 250 acres. In a typical year, he makes 20,000-25,000 small square bales each weighing 60-65 lbs. Most are marketed through a broker serving Northeastern horse owners, but Bootes also sells directly to horse and dairy customers in New York and Pennsylvania.

The hay he produced in 2012 has been sold or is “spoken for,” Bootes reports. This past fall’s going price was in the $200-300/ton range at the farm – up from $150-160/ton at the start of the season. “At the local auctions, hay is bringing more than that.”

He believes the market is close to topping, if it hasn’t already. “With the supply so short, prices are likely to hold steady until the new crop comes in. But I don’t see them going any higher,” he says. “People can only afford to pay so much.”

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