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Help with newspaper article about the 2013 hay crop -- in Virginia mostly also US

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  • Help with newspaper article about the 2013 hay crop -- in Virginia mostly also US

    Can anybody (growers, producers, end-users) help me with a news story I’m doing about the bumper crop of hay this year?
    The questions below are aimed at a couple of my own suppliers here in Virginia but feel free to discuss on a more regional, or national, scale.
    Feel free to contact me privately but a general chat on here is fine too!
    Thanks in advance.

    1. How many bales (square or round) do you usually get from an acre? How many this year?
    2. What varieties do you hay? What grows best in the mid-Atlantic, anyway? What (if any) have been especially good this year b/c of the good rains and good drying?
    3. Is this your best year ever?
    4. Describe for me briefly what *are* the best conditions? Wet spring? Cold winter? Occasional dry snaps?
    5. What about other crops? You grow any corn? You hear from any bean farmers? How are those doing?
    6. It’s a catch 22 isn’t it, having excellent conditions means everybody has a lot of hay (and pasture) and none of it (I assume) sells at a premium. Right? How are prices?
    Thanks!
    * www.huntersrest.net -- Virginia hunt country's best Bed-and-Breakfast-and-Barn.

  • #2
    As a horse owner, I don't know if we have been having a great year for hay. My hay man had trouble getting his first cutting in and dry because our weather was so wet in the spring. Then, the rain stopped so the second cutting hay was not as plentiful as he had hoped it would be. I just paid $8 per bale for very nice, second cutting, orchard grass/alfalfa mix. One of my horses is age 25 so I need high quality hay.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Hunter's Rest View Post
      1. How many bales (square or round) do you usually get from an acre? How many this year?
      This is my first year doing my own hay. I'm in Nebraska. I baled hay for many years when i was younger living on my parents farm though. I got around 40 square bales per acre. Bales are roughly 70 pounds each.
      Originally posted by Hunter's Rest View Post
      2. What varieties do you hay? What grows best in the mid-Atlantic, anyway? What (if any) have been especially good this year b/c of the good rains and good drying?
      Mixture of native brome, timothy, orchardgrass, ryegrass in one field. Other field has some alfalfa and red clover growing it in too.
      Originally posted by Hunter's Rest View Post
      3. Is this your best year ever?
      First year I've done hay in probably 15 years or so....but i know this was an excellent year for my area.
      Originally posted by Hunter's Rest View Post
      4. Describe for me briefly what *are* the best conditions? Wet spring? Cold winter? Occasional dry snaps?
      For my area, "regular" rain of small to moderate amounts followed by warm days -- high 80's, with short periods into the 90's or 100's seem to make the grass and alfalfa really grow. Especially if it's raining "regularly" or so to speak.
      Originally posted by Hunter's Rest View Post
      5. What about other crops? You grow any corn? You hear from any bean farmers? How are those doing?
      other crops doing well around here.
      Originally posted by Hunter's Rest View Post
      6. It’s a catch 22 isn’t it, having excellent conditions means everybody has a lot of hay (and pasture) and none of it (I assume) sells at a premium. Right? How are prices?
      Yes it is. I sold some of my hay for $4.50 picked up in the field, sold some for $5.00 delivered. Sellers are asking 5.50/bale delivered, plus a $25 delivery charge per load.

      It was way too wet to get into the fields to cut when I would have preferred to. I was planning on hiring someone to cut and bale my fields for me, but nobody would sign on to do it -- they all said they were too far behind schedule to take on more land. That's why I bought my own equipment. I ended up having people ask ME to cut their hay for them when they saw me working in the field.

      Next season, i'll have my poop in a group and be ready to roll first thing in the spring when the grass heads out to seed....

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by AKB View Post
        As a horse owner, I don't know if we have been having a great year for hay. My hay man had trouble getting his first cutting in and dry because our weather was so wet in the spring. Then, the rain stopped so the second cutting hay was not as plentiful as he had hoped it would be. I just paid $8 per bale for very nice, second cutting, orchard grass/alfalfa mix. One of my horses is age 25 so I need high quality hay.
        My hay man ran into the same problem so I couldn't get first cutting orchard. He ended up chopping his first cutting orchard and timothy for cows. I was able to get decent 2nd cutting orchard with alfalfa and some clover for 50% more than I usually pay for first cutting ($6/bale)but he did give me a bit of a break as last yr he got $8 for the same mix. I've also got older horses so they need a softer hay.
        Sue

        I'm not saying let's go kill all the stupid people...I'm just saying let's remove all the warning labels and let the problem sort itself out.

        Comment


        • #5
          All of the following applies to my experience in the SE area of PA.
          Now, I haven’t been down to Virginia since the spring jump meets and don’t know most of the state but the areas I do know well does not IMO offer ideal soil nor weather to grow really good hay. At least compared to around here. So if Virginia had a bumper crop hay season consider yourself very luck.
          There is ideal rain, too little rain and too much rain when it comes to producing hay or any tillage crop for that matter. Ideal is a given, of the other 2 I’ll take too little over too much. This year it rained too often not necessarily a lot at any given time. This weather pattern that started in May and has continued right up today and has offered very short and few windows of opportunity to cut, dry down and bale. I cut and small bale Orchard that has some Timothy. I need on average 3-4 days of sun, humidity levels around 40 to mid 50s for any given cutting. Of course lower puts a big smile on my face and makes the process most enjoyable but that doesn’t happened around here very often. With the average humidity levels we deal with around here being on the high side of 50%+ we only have about 3-4 hours of ideal baling conditions. After 4-5 o’clock the humidity level jumps dramatically and you are pretty much screwed if you continue baling. The weight of the bale increases substantially from just an hour earlier. That’s because of more water content not hay and you are pretty much guaranteed those bales will spoil, at least for horses. Even balers equipped with treatment applicators can only bale up to around 23% moisture content. IME experience bales made late in the afternoon average upwards of 25-30%. I hay around 50 acres but can only cut, bale and put up around 10 acres at a time comfortably with the average weather window we have. And that’s using 4 hay wagons (each wagon cost $4K new) that hold 3+ tons each. 2-3 tons per acre but my stand is in its 9th year and getting thin. So simple math tells you that the wagons have to be turn around, unloaded a number of times during a cutting. Finding people to unload is not easy these days. As a teenager we looked forward to hay season, hard work but instant money with out having to work a full time job in the summer. Put a fair amount of money in our pocket and gave the free time to spend it. Sorry I digress as usual.
          I would say in the Mid-Atlantic north of Virginia the majority of produces grow Orchard and Timothy. Northern Pa up into western NY and the New England states Timothy maybe more the norm. Timothy is tricky down this way, more prone to diseases do to warmer and higher moisture on average that will wipe a stand out in a matter of weeks. For this reason Orchard has become more prevalent. I don’t consider Alfalfa hay it is not a grass. I have not had much luck mixing Alfalfa with Orchard the seed is expensive and the die back is fairly quick with little to none remaining after a couple of seasons at best.
          Around here a mixed hay is always offered as Alfalfa-Orchard for marketing reasons but it should really be called Orchard-Alfalfa because the majority of bales have very little Alfalfa in them.
          This year has been my worst hay season in 9 years. I was only able to bale about 1/3 of my first cutting for horses do to wet conditions. And it was not hay to be proud of, mature and on the stalky side. There is an old hay adage that always rings true; it’s a lot easier to put up good hay then bad. Along with; only cut as much as you can afford to loose.
          Around 40+ tons were cut by a neighbor who only does mushroom hay in giant bales. I got around $40 a ton instead of $200-250. I usually get 3 decent to very good cuttings per season. Was never able to get all of my second cutting off. Every time a took a chance on a short weather window I got skunked and lost half of what I baled to mushroom hay. It only takes a little rain, high humidity and party cloudy days to loose most if not all of a cutting. I will not get a 3 cutting. I put up at best less then 2/3 of norm. Only about half of that is something to be proud of. A season like this one also changes the quality of a hay stand. When you can’t cut on a regular bases provides opportunity for weeds and garbage grasses to move in and take hold.
          With 30-40 head to hay over the winter I am a bit nervous. I have no hay for sale and will most likely will be going to auction in the near future. Better to suck up the cost now because around here it is going to be more and more expensive in months to come.
          I get a little peeved when I read people saying, those greedy hay people. Everybody seems to think hay is simple, cheap and easy to produce. NOT. Hay that people want for their horses is one of if not the most difficult of crops to grow and produce. I can tell you in this area and this area is a very large crop area more and more producers are getting out of the hay business. My tillage/crop farmer neighbors have told me this. Due to very consistent prices that farmers have been getting for corn, wheat, beans, etc the expense and hassle of doing hay does not make sense anymore. And they are tired of horse people bitching about the price of a good bale of hay. I can tell you around here and in the greater geographic area hay prices will not be coming down and be prepared to pay higher in future years.
          Sorry OP to be so long winded as I am sure you know it is my nature. As with most of my posts I not only address the OP’s questions but also the bigger picture for the many people that read and may have questions that go unasked. That’s the long of it.
          In another thread a person questioned by intelligence and or lack of education so sorry if this has spelling, grammar mistakes, lacks continuity or wrong use of certain words. I just pound it out as a service, give it a one over proof and it always seems to read OK with no glaring mistakes until after I post it and re-read again at a latter date. If I was being paid I would have an editor doing that for me.

          The short to your questions;

          1) Most hay producers only figure in tons. Bales, square or round can be made in different sizes set by the baler and type of machine used. In my case small squares @ 40 lbs each 2 to 3 tons per acre depending on the stand, and conditions. In any season around here there can be a considerable amount lost after baling as I pointed out above. Very few buyers take this into consideration. Little to no producers round bale around here anymore. Big square balers are the norm. More efficient make a much better product and efficient use of storage space.

          2) Orchard and Timothy or a mix of. Worst year in many and others have said the same thing. Excellent year for mushroom hay producers. Plenty of cow hay.

          3) Answered above.

          4) The same for all, April showers bring May flowers. Though we get a lot of rain in May also. I can rarely cut and bale in May when my Orchard stand is at its best.
          Long dry, sunny low humidity until all of my 50 acres is cut and baled. Never happens. Followed by even periods of rain and good drying after until the next cutting. To much moisture with no drying periods creates perfect conditions for disease and kill off. Which happened a lot this summer.

          5) Only grow hay, grass and horses. A lot of crop farmer around here. Due to the wet spring wheat was a real PIA to get off. Not as sensitive as hay but it still has to be harvested with a specific moisture content or it will spoil after the fact. Farmer were very late getting wheat out of the fields and on to their next crop usually beans. They were freaking out. Corn is high but usually is around here. Harvest is just starting. But like wheat dry conditions are a must. Both can go over the top and bring much lower prices. Beans were put in late for many so that could bring on a low yield. Time will tell haven’t run into my farmer neighbors recently. I don’t know much about tillage farming. Though it is looking pretty good for my 50 acres. Not matter what tillage crops always sell and for more then hay per acre these days. A lot less hassle and work.

          6) Maybe for everybody in your neck of the woods. Not here. Hay prices usually stay the same even in bumper years. Hay producers know how to play the market. But the greater geographic area where I am located has a very large horse population to cater to. Many breeds many disciplines. With the amount of land being taken out of hay production I see the prices only rising no matter how good a season.

          Comment


          • #6
            HR - I can put you in touch with a few producers you can interview. In this area rainfall varied so much that some producers had a great year; others didn't.
            Brothers and sisters, I bid you beware
            Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.
            -Rudyard Kipling

            Comment

            • Original Poster

              #7
              OMG THANK YOU all.
              Yes JS I'd love your people. I'd like to get many voices into the story.
              Plus -- here's a new query - what about deer and rabbit and mice population as it relates to foxes and whatnot. That might make a nice sidebar.
              And any portent for the coming winter - someone told me tonight that all the fog we're getting tells of awful cold and lots of snow.
              * www.huntersrest.net -- Virginia hunt country's best Bed-and-Breakfast-and-Barn.

              Comment

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