Horse hay sales at Master Made Feeds, Inc., in Grapevine, TX, have tapered off slightly this year. Owner Mitch Waters thinks that may be a carryover from the 2011 drought in Texas.

“Last year, finding hay in this area was extremely tough,” says Waters. “So people did a lot of shopping around for hay in other areas. They may have found some new suppliers that they want to stay with for a while. Overall, I’d say we’ve had a good year for sales, but it’s certainly down from where it was two years ago.”

Declining horse populations in the Dallas metro area, where Waters operates two retail feed stores, may also be a factor. “With feed so hard to come by last year, a lot of people cut back on the number of animals they were keeping. If they had four or five before, they might be down to one or two now. Or if they had an older horse that died, they may not have replaced it.”

Coastal bermudagrass is still the preferred hay type for many of Waters’ horse-owning customers, and seems to have “a little more availability this year,” says Waters. That’s mostly because the wet August and September months allowed growers to take third cuttings, and, in some cases, even fourth cuttings. “We had 4-5” of rain in mid-August,” he says. “That’s a great time in the growing season to get the moisture, because we have plenty of heat then.”

On the other hand, high-quality hay could still be hard to come by this winter, Waters says. “We’re still making up ground from last year’s drought. Everybody’s barns were empty when the growing season started this year. And a lot of people didn’t want to spend money on fertilizer last year because of the drought. That may have caught up with us a little bit this year.”

The net result, Waters says, is that the price of higher-quality hay could increase, especially toward the end of 2012 or the start of next year. “People who packed away some quality hay should be able to get just about whatever they want for it once we get into that busy sales season in January through May.”

Right now, Waters is selling locally produced Coastal bermudagrass at $12.50 per 50- to 55-lb bale. Last winter, the price topped out at around $15/bale. For three-string bales of bermudagrass, weighing 100 lbs each and shipped in from California, he’s getting $25/bale. Last year, the price was closer to $29/bale.

To contact Waters, call 817-481-2321 or email feedanimals@msn.com.