It's been a wild year when it comes to making and finding hay in many parts of the country, says Charles Roff, Old Dominion Hay Company, Smithfield, VA. Roff buys hay from throughout the U.S. and services the equine hay market in the Southeast. He says the hay production year started out looking somewhat favorable in his immediate area. Then June ushered in a dry spell. "We didn't see any rain from June through August. Pastures were turning brown," he says. August rain helped bring back grass, but not hay or corn. "The corn crop in our immediate area was ruined. It was almost a total loss in a couple of counties around me, where there was no rain at all.
"I buy a lot of hay out of New York and it had similar conditions," he continues. "Most people who made the first cutting made really good hay, but they only had about half of the normal crop. July brought rain in time to save the second crop, but it was very short as well. Prices are running pretty good in New York."
Roff sees Michigan hay growers holding onto their hay and waiting for big money. Hay suppliers he works with there put up half the normal amount of hay this year, he thinks.
"Hay inventories in both Ohio and Michigan are pretty low," agrees E.J. Croll of Croll Farms in Oak Harbor, OH, and president of the National Hay Association (NHA). "When it comes to losses, I'm hearing big numbers. Many hay growers in Ohio got about half of their normal crop."
Roff and Croll both find good hay from the western U.S., but transportation costs are high. "I don't seem to have a lot of problems finding hay out West and buyers out there say they aren't having trouble filling orders," Roff states." Idaho and Wyoming had good crops, and I've been getting nice hay from there. Colorado had both good and bad this year with some water issues. The market is high and I think it is going to go higher." NHA members have told Croll that the hot, dry weather has been good for Western hay growers this summer. "They haven't had showers on the hay, and many of them irrigate, so it was a good year for making hay, especially in Idaho and Oregon," he says. "The Imperial Valley in California had some inventory that carried over, too, and there seems to be good supplies in that area."
Roff sees a lot of similarities between the hay market this year and the drought in 1988. Many people held onto hay then, too, he says. "I would expect prices to remain strong right on through this year because a lot of hay fields were taken out of production due to ethanol plants, too," he says.
Contact Roff at 757-357-4878 and Croll at 419-898-2496.