While many U.S. hay growers struggled with extremely dry conditions during the 2012 growing season, Florida producer Mark Randell found himself dealing with one of the wettest summers he can remember.
“We were very dry early on,” says Randell, who grows Coastal bermudagrass hay on 300 acres near Wellborn. “But then it turned into a tremendously wet summer. It went from being as dry as it could get to being as wet as we could stand.”
The weather turnaround started on Memorial Day weekend with rains from Tropical Storm Beryl. Three weeks later, Tropical Storm Debby dumped even more moisture on the region. “Then, on June 26, we got 24” of rain in a 24-hour period. Even though we’re on sand for the most part, the ground was already wet from the tropical storms.”
And the worst wasn’t over. “From late July all the way through August, we kept getting rain after rain. We went for about six weeks where we did absolutely nothing.”
That rainy stretch cost Randell one cutting, or about one-third of his normal production. “Typically, we get three cuttings a year on most of our acres, four on some fields. This year it looks like we’ll only be getting two on at least half of our ground, three on our better fields.”
Currently, Randell is selling 53” net-wrapped round bales weighing 650-700 lbs to dairies about 120 miles away from his farm – for $50/bale. “That’s for a truckload,” he notes.
For smaller sales to the local horse market, he's getting $55/bale. Across the board, prices are up by 10% or so from what they were a year ago.
There could be room for prices to push higher. “It’s all about supply and demand,” says Randell. “Demand has been a little soft lately; people have plenty of pasture because of all the rain we've had. But I think that will be offset by a short supply as the year moves along. We’ll know more when everyone around here gets done baling. But from what we’re seeing, I don’t think there’s going to be enough hay put up to fill all the barns.”
To contact Randell, call 386-208-2758 or email email@example.com.