Bermudagrass hay got off to a fast start at Ross Kinney’s farm near Kilgore, TX. But a recent dry spell has him wondering what lies ahead for the remainder of the 2012 growing season.

Following a warm winter, Kinney was able to take first cutting about a month earlier than normal on his 120 acres of hay ground, 80 acres of which are irrigated. “After that, though, it dried out quite a bit,” he says. “Right now we’re about 2” below normal for rainfall for the year. That’s quite a bit ahead of where we were last year, but we definitely need some rain.”

Kinney markets most of his hay, in small square bales weighing 60-65 lbs, directly to horse owners. While first-cutting yields for grass hay throughout the area were about normal, prices have remained relatively high. Small squares of bermudagrass are bringing $8-10/bale out of the field. Some feed stores are getting as much as $15/bale.

“A lot of people here were completely out of hay at the end of the winter. They’re hanging on to their first-crop hay this year in order to rebuild their inventories.”

If lack of rain crimps production from this point forward, he looks for area hay prices to increase substantially in the months ahead. Even with adequate moisture and improved production prospects, prices could hold at current levels due to rising input costs.

“Diesel-fuel prices have backed off a little recently, but the cost of fertilizer has gone through the roof. Ammonium nitrate is scarce, and phosphorus and potassium prices are going up as well. We’re paying well over $600/ton for fertilizer. I don’t see how prices on what we get for hay can back off all that much.”

To contact Kinney, call 903-522-0308 or email ross@esawireless.com.