Hay growers study co-op

Producers looking to increases prices by working together

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— Hay producers in Northwest Colorado will have an opportunity Monday to learn how their counterparts in western Nebraska market their crop.

Colorado State University Cooperative Extension will host hay growers at a 7 p.m. meeting in the commissioners hearing room of the Routt County Courthouse. On hand will be representatives of the Kimball Nebraska Hay Cooperative. Also in attendance will be Bob Mailander from the Rocky Mountain Farmers Union Co-Op Development Center. They plan to talk to local hay growers about their experiences in finding more effective ways to market their crops and command higher prices.

Mailander said the theory behind forming a hay cooperative is straightforward by banding together, producers can command a better price.

"They can become price setters as opposed to price takers," Mailander said. "It allows you to negotiate with buyers and have some clout instead of being pitted against your neighbor. If we all stick together, we all have some clout. If one of us breaks off and sells for $105 (per ton of hay) that's what we're going to get."

C.J. Mucklow is hosting the meeting. He is director of the Colorado State University Cooperative Extension office here and is convinced that small hay growers could be more effective in finding markets for their crops.

He said his objectives include helping local hay producers standardize on hay quality and asking prices for the crop. He said it isn't uncommon for the price of hay in Northwest Colorado to range from $85 a ton to almost $200 a ton.

"My biggest goal is to get a better handle on market prices of certain classes of hay and to share that information," Mucklow said.

Mucklow convened a preliminary meeting of small hay growers in December and found support for some of his ideas.

A typical small hay grower might produce 100 tons of hay annually on 50 acres of Routt County land.

"My notes say we wanted to get together again to focus our efforts on successful models of marketing hay, whether as a co-op or association," Mucklow said.

"We also said we want to do a better job of defining hay quality, educate both growers and buyers on what constitutes quality hay."

Although some of those in attendance felt Routt, Moffat and Jackson counties aren't yet ready for a full-blown hay cooperative, Mucklow said a less demanding hay association could also be beneficial.

Monday's meeting is designed for small hay producers, but all interested people are welcome, Mucklow said.

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