Hay: What a Difference a Year Makes

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Question for you: In your area, how do this year's hay prices compare to last year's?

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In mine (north-central Idaho), the grass-hay market has taken an abrupt nosedive--from $200/ton last year, to $80-$100/ton as of this writing.

Good news for horse folks who have to buy their supply (we rushed out to get another 5-ton flatbed load over the weekend, while the gettin' was good), not such good news for the growers who are suddenly having to slash prices to get their product sold.

The grower we buy from tells a classic boom/bust story: Last year's high prices prompted many growers to buy, lease, and/or plant more hay ground for 2009. But at the same time, the historically high hay prices seen in '08 also forced many people to cut their horse numbers or to get out of horses entirely: More hay, for fewer horses.

These two factors, complicated by a rain that fell when much of the current-year crop was still in the field, led to what he calls "a market collapse."

Makes you wonder what will happen NEXT year. Will some of those fields sit idle, or go back to producing some other kind of crop? Will that send prices back up again?

I sure don't know. But I do know that we now have hay stashed into every nook and cranny we can find, and that I'm not going to be worrying this winter about what our horses are going to eat.