Hay farmer says wet weather is prompting ‘record high prices’ for the crop

DAVENPORT, Iowa -- The wet weather this spring has put hay farming way behind schedule and it's impacting supply and prices.

Dale Scherer, owner of Scherer Farms in North Davenport, has only been able to plant 88 acres, less than a third of his 300 acres of alfalfa and grass fields.

"On a normal year, we'd be pretty much done with first cutting at this point," he said. Scherer cuts hay about five times a year, he added. "It’ll still take me, with the weather conditions right now, two to three weeks to get the rest of the 200 acres done. On some of the fields I might be a month behind where I’m actually should be."

The delay is impacting quality as the grass and alfalfa has been left to mature longer. It's also impacting quantity supplied.

"Everybody has kind of been running out of hay in last couple of weeks because normally they would have hay made already. Because we haven't -- nobody has -- we've used up our supply."

Scherer uses most of the hay his farm produces on the farm, where his family raises cattle for Scherer's Custom Meats business and operates a horse stable, Lost Grove Stables. He sells the rest locally, in Scott County. He said he has seen prices surge in recent weeks.

"Record high prices," he said. "It has set new records around this area as far as hay prices. I’ve seen the square bales go as high as $13 a bale here locally. I’ve seen round bales, $150-175 apiece here locally."

"Normally, this time of year, the square bales are gonna be in the $3.5 to $5 dollar range. The big round bales would be about $45 - $60 apiece."

Instead of being able to sell some of their hay as they've done in previous years, the Scherers had to eat the higher price and buy.

"I’ve run out of hay at the horse barn, and we’ve had to purchase hay for my own horse barn - at high prices.

To cut hay, farmers need three days of consecutive dry days, for cutting, drying, then baling. Scherer said his family is making up for shorter dry spells by working harder and faster when the weather is good.

"When you get an opening to make a little bit of hay, you gotta be really aggressive and get out there," he said.

The Scherer family has been hit on multiple fronts. Their custom meats are sold at the Farmers Market in downtown Davenport. Sales of their meat products took a hit when the market had to move away from the riverfront.

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