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Hay Price Outlook

The current outlook for horse hay supplies and prices in 2014 is more optimistic than last years due to: increasing hay acres in production and good spring rains in many areas, which should boost production.  As always, local growing conditions will have a big impact on what you will have to pay for hay.  It is always best to estimate your total annual hay needs early and contract to fill your needs during the production season.

Expert Advice

John CohanJohn Cohan

Attorney at Law 

Recent Expert Advice
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Got horse hay to harvest and no harvesting equipment?

Information is available to help you locate custom harvesting services and give you an idea of what you should expect to pay for various haying services.  Several, but not all, land grant universities do annual or semi-annual surveys of typical customer farming rates, including hay harvesting.

Some estimates place the percentage of hay that is harvested by custom operators at between 40% and 50%, and percentage is growing due to increased hay equipment cost and sophistication.

Rates vary widely from state to state and within states.  Some custom hay harvesters will do the entire operation in exchange for a percentage of the hay they harvest.  The rates shown below are intended only as a guideline.  If you don’t see your state listed, check with your state extension service forage specialist.  They may be able to give you rate information.

Sample custom rates for some activities (2012 and 2013)



























Baling: small square/bale









Baling: large square/bale (about 1,000 lbs.)









Baling: large round/bale (under 1,000 lbs.)









n/a=not available

University experts warn that if you are hiring custom harvesting services you should be sure the operator you are using has appropriate liability insurance and is experienced.  A good resource is U.
S. Custom Harvesters, Inc., an association of customer operators headquartered in Hutchinson, KS. They have a list of customer harvesters by state.  The website is: www.USCHI.COM


Fresh-quality horse hay in a small compressed package

Compressed hay blocks from Purina give stressed horses the nutrients they need quickly, according to Karen Davison, equine nutritionist at Purina.  Called Hydration Hay, these 2-lb blocks are ready for feeding after being rehydrated with 5 quarts of water (about 10 pounds).  The product is said to have the same consistency as fresh hay after the rehydration process.

Hydration-Hay blocks are usually used for high-end sport horses, special needs horses and horses in hospital. The compact size of the package makes it ideal for feeding horses while traveling to or from shows or other events.  Hydration hay is now sold in shrink-wrapped packages of 6, 2-lb blocks.  Individual blocks within the package are not wrapped.

People, says Davison, need to remember that each 2-lb hay block only replaces 2 pounds of dry hay. 
Water absorbed during rehydration has no nutritional value but helps increase water intake.

According to Davison, “The 5 quarts of water are completely absorbed by a single Hydration Hay block after 10 minutes of soaking.  Horses lick up every bit of the hay.  Most people use an 8-quart container large enough to accommodate one hay block for hydration.  Each Hydration Hay block contains the same nutritional value as a typical small-square bale of hay.” She adds that horses that have problems eating are able to eat and digest Hydration Hay better than conventional hay.

Hydration-Hay blocks are not cheap.  They usually cost about $28 for 12 2-lb. blocks.  Hydration Hay can currently be purchased at Tractor Supply and other retail establishments.

Hydration-Hay blocks were introduced by Purina last year after years of experimentation and testing.  Dave Fink, a commercial hay grower from Germansville, PA, worked with Purina in the development phases of Hydration Hay blocks and is now the exclusive producer of the hay that goes into those blocks.  He has expanded has hay production to about 2,000 acres to meet current demand.

For more information, call 1-800-227-8941 or visit and click on “horses.”


Hay prices soar 37% from 2009 to 2013 but relief may be on the way

As if recent economic conditions weren’t enough, a big jump in horse hay prices made things even more challenging for stable owners.  Hay prices averaged $186 per ton in 2013 for all types of hay compared to just $110 per ton in 2009, according to USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS).  That’s a 37% increase.

As always weather was a factor, but record corn and soybean prices during the period caused a lot of acres to move out of hay and into corn and beans, especially in the Midwest.  In the West, increasing hay exports to Japan and other Pacific Rim countries provided added competition for available hay.

Looking ahead to 2014, several factors are combining to improve the price situation. USDA is saying hay acres could be as much as 5% higher in 2014 compared to last year.  Also, the U.S. cattle herd is the smallest it has been in years.  Corn and bean prices have stabilized and corn acres are expected to drop a bit this year.

Tactics stable owners can use to save money on horse hay:

  • ·         Monitor regional hay prices (click on USDA Hay Price reports on this website)
  • ·         Start shopping hay as soon as new-crop hay starts being harvested
  • ·         Click on the “Hay Locator” tab above to find new suppliers

Assessing hay needs early and making a plan to fill them can usually save buyers money and hassle later.


Oil shipments from Canada drive horse feed prices up

If your stable feeds oats to horses, you probably noticed oat prices are up significantly and availability limited.  Part of the cause is a decline in oat imports from Canada.  Railroads make more money hauling oil from Canada into the U.S. than grain.

So far in 2014, oat futures prices are up 42% from the end of 2013.  Oats closed above $5 per bushel on the Chicago Board of Trade last week.  An recent article in the Wall Street Journal points out that grain exports, including oats, from Canada are months behind schedule because railroads are shipping oil instead.   All of this makes boarding horses more expensive, especially in a tough winter.

U.S. oat production has been declining in recent years probably due to strong prices for corn and soybeans.  In 2013, the U.S. produced about 1.14 million bushels of oats and imported an estimated 1.59 million bushels from Canada during the same period.

At the same time, Canada, traditionally a major exporter of oats to the U.S. has been increasing acreage.  Now, Canadian growers are stuck with an oats backlog because shipments to the U.S. have slowed because of limited transportation options.

Canadian officials are upset about this situation and threatening legislative action.  However, there aren’t any great solutions on the horizon.


Check out buying hay online

It seems we are buying everything else online today.  Why not hay?  Valley Video Hay Auctions holds online hay auctions.  Its last hay auction was in March. Auctions will resume next fall.   You can find horse-quality hay at Valley Video Hay Market’s online hay auctions, but most of the offerings are alfalfa.  Some German millet and oat hay is listed for the March 12 and 13 auctions. Located in Torrington, WY, Valley Video Hay Markets is in the heart of a vast region of irrigated alfalfa production. Some of the best hay produced in the U.S. comes from this area. Valley Video operates in conjunction with Torrington Livestock Markets, Torrington, WY.

To see what it is all about, go to If you go to the website now, you can see photos of the various lots of hay as well as information about each lot of hay that will be sold at the March 12 and 13 online auctions. Bale size, type, cutting and tons available are listed for each lot, along with a laboratory analysis of the lot.  Independent lab analyses show Relative Feed Value (RFV), protein percentage, Acid Detergent Fiber (ADF), moisture percent and Total Digestible Nutrients (TDN).

None of the hay sold is physically present at the company’s Torrington auction yards.  It remains at the consignee’s farm.

Go to for more information on the bidding and payment process.

Valley Video online hay auctions have been held for over 10 years.  Sales are held at varying intervals June through March of each year. Auction dates and other details can be found at their website.  March will mark the end of the current auction year.  Auctions resume in June after new-crop hay starts to become available.  You can direct phone calls to Barry McRea at 888-935-3633.