The drought isn't limited to corn and soybean farmers. The person who owns three pleasure horses may find it impacts his or her wallet as well. In fact, horse owners are some of the first scrambling to line up hay. In the hardest hit areas, hay is already getting scarce.
The first cutting was good in most areas. However, many hay producers roll up the first cutting, since the quality isn't usually as good as later cuttings, and either feed it to their own livestock or market it locally. Some people got a decent second cutting, particularly fi the y had poorly drained ground and/or were efficient at fertilizing to what the crop needs, while scouting and spraying for potato leafhoppers if necessary. It's the cuttings after that which won't be there, unless it rains generous amounts and does it quickly. Already, volume from the second and third cuttings will be down.
One person who makes and sells a decent quantity of hay says his phone is ringing off the hook. He only has a limited supply of small, square bales and a good number of them are already committed to long-term customers. The price for alfalfa-grass mixed hay, second and third cutting in good condition, is already $8 per bale.
Ron Lemenager, Purdue University Extension beef specialist, says that producers with beef cows that can survive the winter period on lower value roughages will have to look for alternative, from baling corn stalks to being creative. He says one option that has been used successfully but on a limited basis is treating straw with anhydrous ammonia to produce a forage that is relatively strong in protein content.
The only problem is that ammonia is high-prices , and straw isn't cheap either unless you have your own supply. Straw is selling from $3 to $4 per bale already.The bottom line is that you don't have hay needs already met, line it up quick. If you can't afford the asking price, consider other alternatives, but factor in true costs for them as well.