Many farmers horded hay this past season because of the drought. Instead of selling out of the field they hired help to store square bales in their barns that have gone unused for many years, because they feed big round bales to their own animals and usually sell square bales in the field.
They thought that they could sell their square bales out of their barns all winter and people would pay a premium, especially horse owners. Instead, most of the horse owners faced too many obstacles to paying high prices for hay. Horse values dropped, hay was hard to find and too expensive, the economy got worse and some lost jobs. So, many horse owners have sold their horses for whatever they could get, breeders stopped breeding and thinned their herds by selling, giving away or euthanizing.
Now Spring is just around the corner and barns are still full of hay, not many people want to buy last year's hay. Much of the hay that was put up last summer was poor quality because every spare weed lot was baled. It looks like some farmers may have cut off their noses to spite their face, as horse owners are smarter now. We have all learned our lessons, get rid of all of the hay burners that are no longer useful. Feed only good quality hay, and feed it smartly, eliminate as much waste as possible, use hay alternatives and shop around, your loyalty to your hay supplier didn't mean anything to him during a rough year, so why be loyal to one supplier?
I believe hay will be plentiful this year and will be for sale in the field again and at pre-drought prices. Grain prices will come down as the demand drops, we fed a lot of grain this winter to supplement the quality and amount of hay that we had, I am sure that we were not the only ones who did this.
Most horse owners will not be caught in the same situation that we found ourselves in this past fall and winter. People who own a few extra acres that can be divided off and not used as pasture, will do their own hay instead of having to depend on others. It has been easier and just as cost affective to buy hay instead of putting up your own, but that may have changed now.