A 3” rainfall in mid-March was more than welcome at Tommy Jones’ Top Quality Hay farm near Bell, FL. “Every little bit helps,” says Jones, who puts up bermudagrass hay in small square and large round bales on 400 acres. “It’s been very dry since last fall. Those 3” were more than we had for the rest of the winter combined.”

He also reports some “pretty freaky” swings in temperatures through the winter months. “We’d have some really, really warm weather, and everything would green up. But then we’d get two or three days of a killing frost. We’ve had three of those since November.”

The net result is that the hay crop isn’t getting off to as quick a start as he’d like. “Right now, it’s just kind of sitting there, doing nothing. We’re hoping we don’t get any more of those frosts. That would set it back even more.”

Four feed stores within 150 miles of his farm make up Jones’ primary market. Sales through winter were sluggish.

“The poor overall economy is a big part of it. People who used to have one horse or one cow in the backyard don’t have that anymore because they can’t afford it. Priorities have changed. That’s really affecting the hay business.”

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Currently, Jones has about 9,000 small squares, weighing 45-50 lbs each, in inventory. He’s charging $6/bale when customers buy one or two bales at a time. For full semi-loads, he charges $5-5.25/bale. His at-the-barn price for the large rounds is $50-55/roll if customers buy a semi-load or $60/roll if they buy them individually.

Market conditions will likely force Jones to keep his current price structure, he says. “It’s about as high as it can go. People are only going to pay so much for hay before they switch to some other feed. The demand just isn’t there. We’re going to have to look for other areas to cut back and go on from there.”

To contact Jones, call 352-538-5665 or email topqualityhay@gmail.com.

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