Farm Industry News Blog

Hay 9-1-1

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

Then people got out and looked at their alfalfa fields.  They started to realize how bad things looked. Then it rained some more. They started talking to Ted about bringing hay in from distant states. Nothing was really left for inventory in those areas that was good enough quality for dairy cattle. The cold spring meant new-crop hay wasn't going to be early this year. Last year was unseasonably warm early on, so a lot of producers got started with their hay harvest early. Then it quit raining last year. Production dropped, but the calendar math didn't change. If you have a 12-month supply of feed and the next year's crop isn't ready until 13 or 14 months later, that makes for some interesting decisions on about day 364 to day 367. All the rain we've had this spring meant new-crop hay wouldn't be available until the ground dried out enough to support the equipment to harvest it. 

That's when telephone tension teeter-totter kicked into gear again. Ted called to see if I had anything left. I did and I tossed out some new numbers. (They weren't smaller). More phone calls were made between Ted and the prospective buyers. That's when it got interesting. A call on a Wednesday revealed one buyer was very interested in a load of hay. Oh, by the way, he'd be completely out by the weekend at best, but maybe as early as Friday, so his negotiating strength was a bit limited. We had his bales loaded and ready to head out of my yard around noon that day. That's part of why Ted likes working with me. If you can get him results in short order, you will probably be his first call when he needs something. Exceed his expectations and you're gold. 

When he came back for another load later (after yet another emergency call), Ted was telling me about the first buyer and his fairly urgent need. "I got out of the truck in his yard and he more or less ran up and hugged me, Jeff! He didn't think when he called this morning that he'd even be able to find hay, let alone have it in his yard yet that day!" 

Another call during that trip revealed that a different buyer had tried the new-crop hay harvesting route. Two problems were discovered. First of all, the ground wasn't as firm as he'd hoped it would be. How shall I put this? Neither was the harvested product, which was his second problem. When really, really green forage like that is fed to cows, let's just say that you didn't want to be standing within about eight or ten ft. of the south end of that cow in a north wind. 

That ration needed dry matter. That dry matter needed to be palatable and full of nutrition. Nothing fits the recipe like a nice round bale of alfalfa-grass hay. What a coincidence, I had some of that very stuff! 

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The Farm Industry News Blog features commentary from Willie Vogt, Daryl Bridenbaugh and Jeff Ryan.

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