As of December 1st, nationally, there was about 90 million tons of hay on hand. Looking back at a 10- year average, 80 million tons of hay is fed between December 1st and May 1st.
The first hay cutting is usually between the middle of May and June 1st, so it appears there will be very little carry-over of hay that was cut in 2011, and with hay production in Texas down over 60 percent last year, the 2012 growing season will be even more critical.
“We’ve got this hay equipment, and its sole purpose is to harvest hay, and we haven’t been able to use our equipment because we haven’t produced hay this past year, so we’ve been more of a, like I say, a distribution place, so that lead to more shipping costs, finding hay in other outlets, therefore we’ve been more of a phone operator than a tractor operator.”
Randy Britten says hay is being sold for historically high prices.
“Regionally there’s very little hay available. Everybody’s on a very thin line. The price of importing hay out of state has increased tremendously. The alfalfa price a year ago was reasonable. Now’s it’s about double what it was a year ago, if you can find some alfalfa, and grass hay is in the same category as far as round bales or large square bales.”
Currently, there’s still a lot of hay being shipped in from out of state.
“It’s slowed down tremendously from last fall. One reason because the cow numbers are down, and we’ve gotten some recent rain now, so we’ve got some green pasture coming. Winter rye and oats and some other legumes were planted, so that’s helping cut back on the hay bill a bit.”
It wasn’t just missing a rain or two that caused the damage that has been done to pasture and hay fields, and it will take more than a couple of good rains to bring that grass back.
“Some of them may not have enough, they may have to go in and replant their Bermuda grass to get a decent stand back in their field. It may take 2 to 4 years to get our plant population back in place where we need it as far as maximum production of Bermuda grass in this area.”
For now, Britten continues to manage his land as though there will be a hay crop this year. Only time will tell. I’m Karey Kailey, looking at Brazos Valley agriculture, From The Ground Up.