Farm Industry News Blog

Hay 9-1-1

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Iowa farmer Jeff Ryan gives a look into the wild hay market.

Ted, my hay jockey, was wanting to know if I had any hay left. He hadn't gotten any from me for a few months. Because of all the snow and ice this winter, every time I'd try to move a bale of hay, the net wrap around it would be frozen to the ground and would tear. You can't get unwrapped hay onto a trailer successfully and expect it to bring decent money. People will pay extra for free-range chicken. They won't do that for free-range hay. Can't say that I'd blame them. 

So I decided to wait with my hay. Yeah, the market was strong this winter, but the discount for net wrap explosions wasn't going to work for me. I'd wait and see what the spring brought. Turns out that wasn't a bad idea. 

Ted called one day to see if I had anything left. He'd been here last fall to look over my inventory so he'd have an idea of what was available to his customers as they called. I could sense the tension in his voice when he called. I could also sense the tremendous relief when I told him I'd hardly moved a bale all winter. That's when the tension teeter-totter switched back to my side as I tossed out some pie-in-the-sky numbers to him on what it would take to change ownership of my hay. As many G's as I was pulling on that teeter-totter at that moment, everything felt perfectly stable when the response I got was quite favorable. No catapult action. No sudden drops to the ground. We'd found hay equilibrium. 

The first semi was loaded and hit the road. The buyer approved of the hay, so another order was placed. Then another. Then another. Then a different customer wanted some. Then another. 

In just a few days one week, I sold more hay than what my annual goals used to be. We weren't running around the clock loading trucks, either. It was only a handful of loads. When we got the paperwork together that Saturday at the co-op for the official check-writing ceremony, Ted handed me the check and said it used to take him six months to sell that much hay when he first started doing this 30 years ago or more. I told him it used to take me a few dozen Wednesdays in Fort Atkinson to do the same. Now we did it in less than a day's time worth of loader work. 

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The Farm Industry News Blog features commentary from Willie Vogt, Jodie Wehrspann, Kathy Huting, Lynn Grooms, Daryl Bridenbaugh and Jeff Ryan.

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