After peaking this summer, demand for high-quality horse hay appears to be backing off a bit in the southeastern U.S., reports hay grower Clayton Geralds of Geralds Farms in Munfordville, KY.

“Demand was extremely strong toward the end of July and the first part of August,” he says. “Everybody was scared. It wasn’t raining and nobody was putting up any hay. We were getting lots of calls. Everybody was trying to get something in their barns. They didn’t think there would be any hay to buy this fall.”

With several fall rains, starting in mid-September, demand started to slow. “Everything started getting back to normal, and it’s stayed that way since. We’re not shipping any less or any more hay than we normally do at this time of year.”

Geralds, his wife Molly and their son Christopher grow alfalfa, alfalfa-orchardgrass and timothy on 800 acres. They market to horse owners in Kentucky, Georgia, Florida and elsewhere in the eastern U.S. This year, they put up 98,000 small square bales. “We started on our first crop in March, something we’ve never done before. We hit a dry spell in midsummer, and the hay didn’t grow. But we had a very decent fall.

“Our yield overall was down about 10%. But we ended up taking six cuttings on some of our alfalfa fields. Normally, we’ll have five.”

Currently, good hay in the area is bringing $300/ton at the farm. That’s up 10-15% from prices of a year ago. Geralds believes the increase probably has more to do with input-cost increases for growers than with a supply shortage.

“I think we may have hit the high for the market in our area,” he says. “Supply and demand seem to be in line. There have been some producers who have tried raising their prices even more, thinking there was a supply shortage. But they’re simply not moving any hay.”

The Geralds can be contacted at 270-528-1238 or cgeralds@hotmail.com.