A rainy summer crimped quality up and down the East Coast in 2013, building demand for high-quality horse hay this fall, reports grower Brian Bootes of Bootes Farms, Middlesex, NY.

He grows 250 acres of alfalfa-timothy and alfalfa-orchardgrass baled in 60- to 65-lb small square bales sold through brokers serving horse-owning customers as far south as Florida. He also sells directly to feed stores in the Carolinas.

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“Down South, they couldn’t make good horse hay at all this year because of the weather. A lot of the hay in that part of the country went right to the mulch pile or got put up as round bales.”

Growers in Bootes’ area had to deal with weather challenges of their own. “We got a late start,” he says. “It was tough to make dry hay in June when we wanted to. It was really mid-July before things straightened out and we could get going.”

Bootes made 24,000 small square bales this year, about what he normally puts up. But supplies are tight in many places, and his inventory is already spoken for. First-cutting hay put up on time sold for $200/ton at the barn. Weather-delayed first-cut crop put up overly mature brought $170-180/ton. He’s been offered $250/ton at the barn for second and third cuttings. Prices across the board are down from those of a year ago. “Last year, when there just wasn’t any hay anywhere, you could get $300/ton for second and third cutting,” says Bootes. “But the prices are still pretty good. We’re not complaining one bit.”

To contact Bootes, call 585-554-3756 or email bbootes@frontier.com.

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