Declining production in central Oregon is putting upward pressure on prices for small square bales of alfalfa hay, reports Tumalo, OR, hay grower and blogger Frank Maricle.

In his Central Oregon Hay blog earlier this month, Maricle notes that a steady overall decline in regional alfalfa acres the past several years, plus strong prices for large- and medium-size bales of dairy hay, made it hard to find small bales in the area.

The cost of including lime in fertility programs may be playing a role.

“Alfalfa needs fairly neutral soil to yield well, and, unfortunately, adding lime into a fertility program adds substantial cost that is difficult to make up. Even with the added lime cost, it still is cheaper to fertilize than grass. But some fields are just too acidic to justify bringing to the acceptable range for alfalfa.”

The relationship between alfalfa and orchardgrass prices has also changed. “Traditionally, orchardgrass, with the additional nitrogen cost, has commanded $20-30/ton more than alfalfa. But in the last two years, (that’s) flipped around,” Maricle says.