A production shortfall, coupled with strong demand, has put a strain on horse-hay supplies in northern Florida, reports hay grower Tommy Jones, owner of Top Quality Hay near Bell. “I wouldn’t be surprised if we were totally out of hay in this area by the end of February,” he says. “Things are just that tight.”

Jones puts up Coastal bermudagrass hay on 350 dryland and 250 irrigated acres. He makes large round and small square bales and markets the bulk of his production to four feed stores within 150 miles of his farm.

The stage was set for the production decrease last fall when many area growers took hay acres out of production to grow peanuts. Jones made the switch on 200 acres. “And it looks like peanut prices are going to be high again next year. If that’s the case, we’ll see even more hay ground coming out.”

Increased activity from buyers in drought-stricken Texas helped push up demand in the area, Jones adds. He shipped 1,700 rolls of hay to Texas earlier this fall, then had to buy 600 rolls from a neighbor to fill orders from his regular customers.

“When we sold the hay to the buyer in Texas, we figured we’d be alright with what we got from our later cuttings,” he says. “But it was extremely dry from early September all the way through mid-November, when we finished up for the year. For our last cutting we only got about 35-40 small square bales/acre. Earlier in the season, we were getting 90-100 bales/acre.”

Currently, Jones is selling 50-lb small squares in semi-load lots for $4-4.50/bale. For one or two bales picked up at his barns, he charges $5-6/bale. For large rounds weighing around 700 lbs, he’s getting $55 for rolls stored in the barn and $40-45 for rolls in the field.

To contact Jones, call 352-463-2057.