The History Of The American Hay Market

Wednesday, November 30th, 2016

Hay has been a valuable commodity since the origination of the United States. The rich history of the hay industry is intertwined with that of the country’s agricultural past. Read on to learn more about how the hay market has changed throughout the history of the United States.

Hay in the colonial period

Subsistence farming, which means only growing enough for the farmer and their family, was largely practiced by the first European settlers of the United States. Livestock was imported when the colonists discovered there were no animals native to the East Coast that were suitable for domestication. The end of the 18th century came with a demand for Merino sheep, which were imported from Spain.

The sheep industry was centered in New England, where long winters made supplemental feed necessary. The hay demand surged with the popularity of the Merino sheep. When German immigrants brought new agricultural practices to the states, such as the use of the cradle scythe, it greatly increased productivity. This change also paved the way for grains and grass to become significant trade items in America.

The 19th century hay market

The demand for livestock feed increased as westward expansion widened the continental U.S. The Midwest proved to be the perfect place for farming on a large scale. The implementation of horse-drawn mowers made it possible to collect a huge amount of product. All of these factors caused the hay market to grow rapidly.

Despite its initial growth, the market experienced several agricultural busts. These issues included blizzards, grasshopper plagues, and drought. The country and the demand for livestock never ceased to grow, even with these problems. To keep up with the demand, hay had to be shipped through the country by rail. The shipping required no standards or regulations until the end of the century.

A New Yorker named Willie Bullock recognized the need for regulation of the hay market in 1893 and gathered a meeting of local traders. The traders agreed that the industry would benefit from a set of standards. In early 1895, the National Hay Association was established to create and oversee the industry regulations. The group created a constitution and agreed on standards that would be fair to both shippers and traders.

The 20th century hay market

The agricultural horizon was expanded through industrialization, which greatly benefited hay traders. Widespread use of electricity also began in the 20th century. With the advent of electricity, ranchers could increase the scale of their profits through the use of automated milkers and confined animal feeding methods. Modern balers were put to use around 1940, allowing producers to meet the constantly rising demand for affordable hay. The speed of shipping greatly increased by this time as well and automobiles became common.

The hay market in the 21st century

Hay is still in high demand today, but there is a short supply of the product, especially in the cattle market. The use of corn as a livestock feed has dropped due to an increase in ethanol use. Many corn farmers came to the conclusion that their crop was more valuable as a fuel. Droughts also began to ravage the Midwest and bale prices doubled in the year 2012. Despite these developments, the demand for hay has grown due to overgrazed land and a lack of alternatives. Cattle farmers have become largely dependent on hay as feed, so It is unlikely that the demand will drop in the foreseeable future.

If you would like to learn about hay and feed for your animals, contact SB Hay & Feed in Amarillo, Texas. Call us today at (800) 652-3036 or Contact Us by email for more information. We aim to help farmers with abundant hay and feed serve others in need across the United States. Be sure to view the hay we have available to buy or sell your own!