Summer of 2018: Great for grass, but a struggle for hay farmers
A rainy summer has been good for growing grass, but farmers are struggling to dry it, bale it, and sell it.
A rainy summer has been good for growing grass, but farmers are struggling to dry it, bale it, and sell it. A hay shortage is driving up prices locally, and this could impact fall prices.
Local hay farm, Malone Farms spans 135 acres in Harrison.
By July, typically the farm's fields are cut three times, to stock pile hay, but wet weather is getting in the way this year.
Tommy Malone cuts and bales hay four times each year between spring and fall. It's a Malone Farms tradition that dates back to 1854.
But, this year, Malone has only been able to complete the process once. A second attempt at cutting only made half.
Malone tells Channel 3, he needs five consecutive days of dry weather to get the job done.
"Right now it's ready to be cut, if we can get the dry weather we were hoping for this week to start," says Malone.
Once cut, the bales need 2-3 days to cure, or turn brown before selling. Malone stores hay bales and rows in a large barn, built just two years ago to keep the hay dry.
"You cut it, and it gets rained on. Mildew is a mold. I wouldn't feed it to my animals. So we just put it in a ditch and let it rot," states Malone.
This time last year, Malone had 7,000 bales and rows to sell. Today, he has about 1,200 ready to go. Less inventory means higher prices, and therefore Malone has added an extra $5.00 to the cost of each bale and row.
Buyers like Brian Stewart, owner of Luckie's Bargain Barn, are prepared to pay more.
"Where we use to see 4-5 dollars per square bale, or small purchases of hay, you would probably right now expect 8 to 10 dollars," says Stewart.
A hay shortage also increases demand for grain to feed horses and cattle. Stewart says it's hard to predict the price of hay this fall. That will depend on how many cuts are left in the season.
With fall approaching, Malone and Stewart are hoping Mother Nature will bail them out of a costly summer.
"The fall is probably the most important, because the animals have no pasture at all," adds Stewart.
Luckie's Bargain Barn tells Channel 3, they currently do not have hay available, but they do expect a round by the end of September.
At this point, Brian Stewart is not committing to any pricing for the fall months.
Have a weather related story idea? Feel free to email Meteorologist Brittany Beggs.