You’ve heard the saying, “make hay when the sun shines”. The same applies when you buy hay for your livestock. Be it goats, sheep, horses, cattle, or otherwise, Buy hay in the spring, buy hay in the summer, buy hay in the fall. But don’t wait until winter to buy hay.

Hay prices will be at their lowest during summer. Especially in the early summer when field crop farmers are out cutting the first spring growth, first cut hay. These farmers may not have had any income from these dormant fields for some time, especially in northern climates where snow cover and freezing weather prevents any growth or harvest for up to five months out of the year. Farmers are looking to make some money now and are ready to sell. Additionally, spring weather favors a bountiful crop of hay. There will be plenty of first cut bales to sell. Buy hay in the summer.

Hay prices will go up later in the growing season. Late summer and fall cuttings, or second and third cut hay, usually yields a lighter harvest for crop farmers. But bales of second cut and third cut hay is more nutritious than first cut hay. The stems and stalks have a finer texture, more green leaves, a sweeter smell and flavor, and most livestock recognize the difference and prefer second and third cut hay over first cut hay. So the likelihood of a lighter harvest, yet better product, drives prices up a dollar or two per square, and several dollars per round. Buy high quality, second cut hay in the late summer and early fall.

If your farm animals tend to be selective grazers you may want to add the higher priced second and third cut hay into your feed budget. It can be cost prohibitive to feed second cut hay all year round, so for cost management purposes buy and feed more first cut hay to your livestock. Treat them now and then to the second cut hay on those really long cold streaks.

Don’t Wait Until Winter to Buy Hay

Hay purchased in the winter is not any more nutritious or desirable to your livestock. It’s stored hay from the previous season. Finding a farmer with hay available in January, February, and March is difficult. Their their goal is to sell out in the fall. Then they do not have to go through the extra effort to move, wrap, and store hay over winter. The farmer that has done the extra work isn’t going to let it go for cheap. Add another dollar or two for each square. Demand is high and supply is low. Hay prices will be highest in the winter.

Case in point, in the summer and fall I can buy certified organic hay from my neighborhood farmer for $5 per square. One winter I went back for resupply in early January. I discovered that he was now getting $7 and $8 per square. That’s no small price to pay when you’re out of hay for your livestock and spring is months away.

Save Money On Hay

Farmers wisdom for thousands of years has said to ‘make hay when the sun shines’. Learn from the years of experience and buy hay when the sun shines. Your livestock will love you for it. And you can hold onto those saved hundreds for other farm products you certainly forgot to plan for this winter.