The smell of hay, and desperation

13 Apr

Last week the cows arrived.  The cows need something to eat, which at this time of year means hay.  We’re a bit short on hay right now, so I decided to head on over to the bi-weekly hay auction in nearby Pine Island.

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The auction is held at the Pine Island Co-op, and while this is the first one I’ve attended, I’ve followed the prices from past auctions.

Mar23HayPricesWe prefer to buy and feed round bales of hay, our bale spikes and hay feeders are set up for round bales.  We can use (the more prominent) large square bales if we have to, but they’re a pain in the butt compared to rounds.

Armed with the knowledge of current hay prices on Craigslist, and the last auction prices, I showed up with an empty flatbed trailer and a determination to get something for the cows to munch on until the grass starts growing.

That didn’t last long.

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The very first lot was 11 big round bales.  Grass hay, not terribly good looking.  I was willing to go up to $100/bale or so.  The auctioneer started out at $60/bale, but it quickly doubled, selling for about $125/bale.

OK, first one’s a fluke.  Maybe somebody knew something I didn’t, maybe it was better hay than I thought.  “The next lots will be better priced” I thought.

Wrong.

That would end up being the cheapest hay at the auction.

No other round bales went for less than $150, most went for around $165.  One lot of nice 1300# Alfalfa-mix bales brought $180/bale.

Big Square bales averaged about the same, but one lot of very nice 4th crop Alfalfa went for $195/bale!

People in the crowd shook their heads, amazed at the prices.  “But what are you gonna do?” one guy exclaimed, “Cows gotta eat.”  The unusually cool April (and March) are really hitting the livestock producers pretty hard.  Everyone seems to have been counting on having some grass to graze at this point in the spring, but instead, it’s snowing.

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I left the auction much like I came in, with an empty trailer.

I’ll try my luck on Craigslist.

3 Responses to “The smell of hay, and desperation”

  1. Gordon Milligan April 13, 2013 at 10:30 pm #

    Good post and I like the title to your post, but I am sorry to hear things are the way they are. It makes it tough to make money at farming when the weather does not want to cooperate. Last year drought to this years cold and wet spring, what next?

  2. grasspunk April 14, 2013 at 12:50 am #

    How heavy are those round bales? I thought France was expensive for hay but your bale prices are our ton prices. Are there areas within a couple of hours drive that have a better hay supply?

    • Andrew April 14, 2013 at 10:52 am #

      Round bales here are usually between 800-1300lbs, most are about 1000lbs. Hay is much cheaper South of here, like in Missouri for instance, where winter is over and the grass is growing again. Unfortunately, anywhere in a reasonable driving distance is experiencing the same cold weather we are, therefore they have high hay prices too.

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