Demand for high-quality timothy hay among horse owners along the Eastern seaboard has softened a bit in recent months, reports Dansville, NY, grower Phil Saunders.

“In the past couple of years, the phone would be ringing off the hook at about this time,” says Saunders, who grows 300 acres of timothy for the high-end horse market. “This year, though, that hasn’t been the case.”

Even so, he isn’t worried about finding a home for the 3,000 or so small square bales he still has in inventory at his Sugar Creek Farm. “Come March and April, there will be more people looking for hay like there always is at that time of year.”

Saunders’ remaining inventory includes two semi-loads of extremely high-quality timothy made in early to mid-June. “It’s some of the prettiest hay we’ve ever put up, nice and soft and green with absolutely no weeds in it.

“I sold several loads of it in North Carolina and Florida last November and got $350/ton for it. I’m thinking that once we get into spring, I’ll be able to get the same price. With all the weather problems we had last summer, it’s going to be tough to find that real good, quality horse hay in a lot of places.”

He expects the rest of his small square stock, put up later than normal due to rain delays, to bring $250/ton. “On some of it, the heads started to fracture a bit, and there is some brown leaf. But it’s not dusty, there’s very little in the way of weeds in it, and it’s been under cover through the winter. There’s always a good market for that kind of hay.”

For the year ahead, he expects to see more acres returning to hay production in his area due mostly to lower corn prices.

“At a price of $4/bu, you’re just not going to get the same kind of return on an acre of corn that you will with an acre of hay. It’s really not even close. That means more people will start taking a closer look at bringing hay back on some of that ground.”

To contact Saunders, call 585-370-7301 or email haygrower@rocketmail.com.

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