It's been twenty years (or thereabouts, as Peter Wright would say in his Yorkshire accent on The Yorkshire Vet, my latest binge watch on Acorn), since we began proudly producing and marketing our organic hay.
There have been years before now when supplies of hay were low in our region of the N.E. U.S.A. One year it was the awful slimy army worms that devoured much of the County's hay supply, drought, monsoon summer rains have all played their part in Mother Nature's symphony of the unexpected. A farmer's lot in life. One neighbor even had his second cut horse hayfields trampled and chowed down by a herd of wandering bison that had escaped their keeper for months.
But in 2020, along with everything else that went sideways, the year brought little rain and much drought to the N.E. Connecticut was as dry as the dust bowl, grasslands laid bare in MA, VT and NH. Here in Stamford, New York, in the micro-climate of heaviest rains in New York State according to local folklore, we saw a radically reduced yield of just 40% of normal on both 1st and 2nd cuts.
Thankfully we managed to successfully harvest the hay that did grow without rain damage.
Not wishing to gouge horse owners by joining the local hay dealers who quickly read the market and began escalating hay prices to nearly double the usual rate, we held our prices from the past two years for 1st/2nd cut supply. We reserved our usual 1000 bales until Spring of this year and just re-opened to market our overage that we don't need for our own horses.
What a surprise we've had. In the history of hay selling I have never experienced such a 'Black Friday' shoppers attitude from prospective buyers of our crop. Calls came in thick and fast. In fact it became so hectic it was hard to keep up with it all. As my mate James Cordon would say, " It was Mondo Bonkers!"
One gentleman (and I use the term sarcastically,) even became downright nasty. This hay dealer based in Southern VT rampaged about on Facebook. He banned me from his hay group, harassed me for days on IM swearing/cursing and generally hating on me etc. just because he was not first to the table when I posted the hay was available and I would not let him just barge in and collect hay with his truck in front of others that had booked an appointment to pick up supplies.
Other folks tried to talk me into letting them skip the appointment 'line' by explaining their dire dilemma regarding price gouging that was happening to them by their regular dealer supplier. While some were just put out and clearly cross that they couldn't skip the line because they just needed a pick up load and were local. Not that any of the above intended to be a repeat client or had ever been a client before. They just wanted in.
Anyway - the 1000 bales has now been spoken for - some going to our regular clientele and some going to random folks that had seen the ad and hopped on the phone immediately to secure their supply, utilizing our website for information as needed. I expect it all to be cleared out within the next few days. I like to help folks out that do not have ample storage to supply their horses all winter so do not have an option to stock up, help fellow farmers whose own hay production was so pitiful in 2020 they needed help feeding their horses and other liverstock and folks that simply don't have the funds to stock up even if they have the storage space.
I often write about hay supplies and how to store good hay, make good hay, choose good hay in my writing career. Perhaps folks will pay a little more attention to where they buy their hay and how they plan for their winter hay supplies and keep a weather eye on the commodity market prices so as not to be caught short again.
Just joking! I don't expect much will change. Hubbie and I will continue putting up our small square bales in our labor of love project of providing the best possible hay for our own performance and breeding horses. That is why it all began. No dry down agents, chemicals, preservatives, fire retardant (yes, someone actually did that), salt, mouse poison ( someone actually posted that too as something they do between layers on the hay stack eeekkk!!) in our hay.
These additives have not been tested for safety on cows for the most part, yet alone horses. Though studies have shown that some additives can cause respiratory inflammation in horses through their hay supply.
We'll just keep on with our organically produced hay, baling one bale at a time, heave-ho the bales to the stack and sell what we don't need for our horses to others that appreciate the hay quality.
It may be hay dealers, it will be mostly end-users. Fellow horse folks, goat, sheep and alpaca keepers, cow farmers, and even rabbit and guinea pig owners are all welcome.
We'll keep it fair and open. And we'll share resources as we have always done to help folks out, such as the Facebook group Horse Hay Hub.