Wet weather that has much of the Ontario first cut hay crop still standing in the field hasn’t yet changed the price for hay.
Typically, the first cut hay harvest is mostly complete by the first of July, but regular rains in June this year have left hay in the field and declining in quality each day.
The lack of hay-making weather was recently causing concern with hay producers at the annual Ontario Forage Expo. The Expo showcases all the latest hay-making equipment from mowers to rakes, tedders, mergers, harvesters, balers and handling machinery, all operating live in the field.
“It’s quite a diverse situation from last year,” says Ray Robertson, manager of the Ontario Forage Council.
“Last year we had the other extreme with so much dry weather, with drought, and so hay prices became extremely high where hay was selling in the neighbourhood of 13 or 14 cents a pound. This year with the moisture, the rain we’ve had certainly has made it more difficult.”
The forecast this week was for a few days of clear weather and there was a significant amount of hay cut over the Canada Day weekend.
However, the hay that’s left will not be of great quality.
“We haven’t been back to the fields in two and a half, maybe three weeks,” says Don Rowntree, a hay farmer and marketer from Georgetown, who has about a quarter of his hay off. Rowntree markets about half of his hay locally to cattle and horse markets and the rest is shipped anywhere from New York to Florida.
“Right now, it’s more than a little concerning,” he says.
However, Rowntree hasn’t seen any movement in the price.
“Price-wise, it’s hard to know what it’s going to do. It’s still a little early to say there’s not the valuable hay there, because if we turn around and get a week or two of good weather, a lot of hay is going to get made.”
The question will be whether it will be of high enough quality for the higher-end markets.
Larry Davis, who farms in Brant County also only has a fraction of his hay off. He agrees that the market price reflecting the late first cut harvest is not yet set for the year.
“Talking to growers just now, people are coming in looking for hay and we’re still selling it at the same price we were last year, primarily 10-12.5 cents a pound, depending on the quality,” says Davis. People are going ‘what I’m not paying that now because you have new hay coming in.’ So they go away, and then they come back.”
Robertson says the market will be clearer in about a month.
There is more demand for Canadian forages from other parts of the world, says Robertson, as the council is receiving inquiries from the Middle East and China.
Rowntree recently returned from a trip to Dubai where he attended a hay trade show and was impressed by the other countries there, including Spain, Italy, Sudan, South Africa and Australia.
“You don’t realize how hay circles around the world,” he says.
A recently formed Ontario Hay Co-operative is working to encourage the development of a made-in-Ontario hay drying system, which is in the process of being patented, and a double compaction facility in order to get high quality hay to those export markets more efficiently.