NCF Farmers Will Brave the Winter After Bad Hay Season
Published December 16th, 2013
Got hay? Some farmers across North Central Florida are saying no.
Large amounts of rainfall spoiled this year's hay season and now quality hay is hard to come by.
And tonight's frost advisory has made the situation worse for farmers and hay producers alike.
"Now, we've got to go out and buy forage, which is expensive," said Don Quincey, hay producer and cattleman.
Quincey runs a 3,500 acre cattle operation in Chiefland and puts up his own hay for his 12,000 head of cattle. He normally keeps 1/3 of his hay product and sells the rest. But, this year, things didn't go as planned.
"We made alot of grass but we had a hard time putting up hay. We had so much rain in the summer months, until we just had a hard time getting it dried down and putting up good quality hay," said Quincey.
Because of the rainy hay season, Quincey Cattle Company saw a 30% decrease in their hay production this year. And that means they can't sell as much hay as they used to to their customers.
"We're just not going to be able to sell as much hay. We'll have to keep more of it for ourself," said Quincey.
University of Florida experts say the bad hay season has left ranchers with a bit of a problem.
"They have their storages full of hay but probably very low quality," said Yoana Newman, UF IFAS forage expert.
Farmers delayed cutting their fields because of all the rain in the summer. The grass got so old that when they eventually cut the hay, it didn't have any nutrients, so now farmers may have to use feed as a supplement to the hay.
That means they will have to spend more money-- anywhere from $35 to $75 a bale. And feed costs even more.
But not for all.
Farmers that raise winter grasses like wheat and rye have been anxiously awaiting the colder weather.
"That's why this cold weather is kind of good news. And we need it," said Newman.
Quincey says dealing with hardships like this is just part of his job.
"Mother Nature's not always smiling on you so you have to do what you have to do to go on to the next day," said Quincey.
After all, winter is coming.
University of Florida experts refer to North Central Florida as the "hay hub" of the state of Florida. Most of Florida's hay is grown in levy and Glichrist counties.
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