In years past your hay supplier may have been as close as across the street or at the farm down the road. With today‚Äôs drought affecting nearly 66% of hay production, finding hay this year may be tougher than most.
Finding Hay on the Internet
If you‚Äôre searching for hay to fill your barn over the winter you might consider turning to the Internet. At TheHayExchange.com you can find suppliers throughout the United States. Some of the hay has already been tested and some suppliers will post the results. Suppliers also list whether or not they will deliver, the quantity for sale and how their hay is baled; large round bales, small cubes or large cubes. Many will also list price.
The Hay Exchange gives the average cost of hay selling on their website too. This fall, small square bales without alfalfa are running about $6.00 each and alfalfa has jumped to $8.10. Ranchers have indicated that in some cases their hay cost has nearly tripled.
You can also find many good listings at HayBarn.com. Here you can browse through ads for hay by state. This site works more like the classifieds section of the newspaper so descriptions and hay information will vary from ad to ad.
Additionally, if you are a Facebook user (and who isn’t these days), you can join the group The Hay Connection. Here there are nearly 15,000 members selling and buying hay.
If you are unable to find the type, or quantity, of hay your horses require you may consider a hay supplement. Feed producers have several options available.
Emergency Haying and Grazing
In an effort to ease the hay crisis the government has made some CRP acreage available for emergency haying and grazing. The USDA‚Äôs website states that this is available to ‚Äúlivestock producers in areas affected by severe drought‚Äù. To obtain authorization you will need to contact an FSA office.
Drought‚Äôs Effect on Hay Production
Overall hay production in the United States is anticipated to be 120 million tons. This is compared to the 131 million tons produced in 2011 which represents an 8.3% drop in production. If you are looking for alfalfa you may need to cast a wider net and should expect an even steeper jump in prices. 2012 Alfalfa yields are expected to be showing a 16% drop from 2011. This is the lowest yield of alfalfa since 1953.
According to the USDA, the states least impacted by the drought are Texas, Oklahoma and Iowa. Only 5-7% of these pastures are in ‚Äúpoor‚Äù to ‚Äúvery poor‚Äù conditions. Those states in the 10-15% range are South Dakota and Nebraska. Then there are those within the 15-20% range: Kansas, Colorado, Arkansas, Florida and Wisconsin. As you begin looking for hay, the states least affected by the drought may be where you will find the best quality and quantity of hay.