On a recent morning, driver Mike Spiers of Inlaws & Outlaws Trucking of Tylertown cinched the tie-down straps on 38 round bales of hay in Buddy Dupuy’s field on Mississippi Highway 24 west of McComb.
“This is my 20th load,” said Spiers, who’s been hauling a load a day to Kilgore, Texas.
“Every evening (when) I get unloaded and start back this way there must be 40, 50 trucks, from gooseneck trailers to 18-wheelers, hauling hay to Texas.”
Spiers’ load was cut and baled by Derwood Brady, Chris Ham and Warren Terrell. At three bales per acre, Spiers’ truck was toting the yield of nearly 13 acres.
Dupuy said his hay-selling partner, Steve Brady, was contacted by a man in Kilgore who needed hay. Dupuy said he heard reports that some Texans were having to buy bad hay at inflated prices.
“We’re selling them hay on the same prices we charge locally,” Dupuy said, who grows Bermuda, bahia and Argentina bahia grasses.
“We’ve got some nice hay fields,” he said. “We’re running, golly, every day, and by the time we get one cut, the back field is ready to make a rerun. We’re looking at trying to get three to four cuttings this year.”
Although he’s shipping plenty to Texas, “we’re going to make sure we have enough hay for local folks,” Dupuy said.
Amite County Agent Richard Hay said word about the Texas shortage started spreading in late July and early August via emails, newsletters, Facebook, websites and meetings.
Much of Texas hasn’t received rain in two or three months, which, coupled with intense heat, has savaged the hay crop there.
Southwest Mississippi farmers are selling hay at the regular rate with the Texas residents footing the freight costs, Hay said.
A bale sells for $25 to $30. Shipping adds an estimated $50 to $75 per bale, depending on distance.
“The 4 by 5 (foot) bales are the ones that they really like because they stack on the trailers really nice. There’s no overhang,” Hay said.
“Thank goodness we’ve got it to send them, but it’s just a drop in the bucket. It’s a pretty dire and desperate situation, but we’re doing what we can. We’re shipping them a lot of hay, I can tell you that.”
Mississippi landowners have had their own problems producing hay this year.
“There is a hay shortage, but we seemed to get a little reprieve with July because we did get a little bit of rain, which allowed us to cut hay in August,” Hay said.
Inlaws & Outlaws Trucking Co. owner Danny Lea said by cell phone from Marshall, Texas: “I’ve got people waiting in line for me to bring the hay to them. There’s that big a shortage.”
He hauled milk for 32 years and has always been involved in some aspect of farming. Now all of his flatbeds are taking hay to Texas.
“The place is brown. It’s so dry it’s busting open,” he said. “I talked to a guy who said it’s been 92 days since he’s had a drop of rain at his farm.”
Lea said he sees trucks from Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, even Georgia hauling hay. The Louisiana highway department has loosened its restrictions on load width to accommodate them.
“It looks like ants because there’s so many loads of hay going across,” Lea said.
Hay said the sight of 18-wheelers loaded with hay is unusual in southwest Mississippi.
“We don’t move hay around here on 18-wheelers,” Hay said. “When you see an 18-wheeler loaded with hay and every two bales has a strap on it, that hay’s going on a long ride.
“It’s very uncommon for us to be shipping hay like this, but I’m glad we’ve got it to do it. Farmers take care of farmers.”
When farmer Earl Gay Edwards of the Thompson community heard about the hay shortage, he wanted to help.
“I said, ‘Well, I got some extra hay I can get. I got mine -- if we get an ordinary winter, I’ve got enough,’ “ Edwards said.
He didn’t want to go through a hay broker -- a middle man who makes a percentage on a sale -- so he called a friend in Mount Pleasant, Texas, who said his son-in-law needed hay.
“I cut Monday. We took and loaded this morning,” Edwards said.
He sold the hay for $30 a bale, same price he gets locally. The Texas farmer pays trucking costs.
One load of hay was all Edwards had to spare.
“If I had it, I would send as many as I could cut and bale,” he said.