“Right now, it looks like we should have a pretty good year,” predicts John Atkinson, Kingdom City, MO, of this year’s hay-growing season.

That optimism comes after last year’s extremely hot and dry conditions cut production on his 75 acres of bromegrass to 70% of normal, and he couldn’t fill all his customers’ orders. “That’s the first time I’ve ever been in that situation,” he says.

Plentiful moisture this winter and spring is reviving the crop. “It’s been growing fast and tall,” says Atkinson, who does business under the Trails End Farm name. “It’s starting to head out, and we should be able to get going on cutting this week.”

His small square bales are marketed within 50 miles of his farm to horse owners, most of whom pick up their hay.

Cost-of-production records help him set hay prices before the season begins. “Last year, the hay price didn’t really start to skyrocket until we were already sold out.”

Even so, Atkinson’s not looking back at lost income opportunities. “I’ve never played the game of holding on to my hay until the price goes up in January or February. I’ve built my business on long-term relationships with customers. I want to be loyal to them on price and quality so they keep coming back. As long as I can cover my costs and get a fair return for my labor, I figure I’m doing fine.”

This year, he plans to hold at 2012’s $4.15/bale price. For sales of 1,000 bales or more, he’ll charge $4/bale.

To contact Atkinson, call 573-592-7239 or email atkinsonj@socket.net.

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