The 2012 hay harvesting season is getting off to a good start in southwestern Arizona, reports David Sharp of Lyreedale Farms near Roll.

David and his brother, Clyde, put up 1,500 acres of irrigated alfalfa. In a typical year, they take 10-11 cuttings, selling the hay primarily to dairies and beef feedlots.

“First crop was a little light as it always is,” says Sharp. “The second crop has come along pretty nicely. Production is up.”

Depending on quality, first crop was bringing a price of $240-280/ton at the farm, up from around $200/ton a year ago. “The supply hasn’t caught up with the demand,” says Sharp.

Second-crop prices appear to be “slipping a bit,” with dairy producers being a little more picky about quality. “If you have the quality, you can still get a good price,” he says.

A variety of factors will determine where alfalfa prices head in the months ahead. “There are a lot of variables that will come into play. Dairy producers would like to see the hay price follow the milk price, but farmers are saying, ‘We have to make some money at this if we’re going to keep growing hay.’

“We also don’t know what’s going to happen in Texas, New Mexico and other places where they were hit hard by the drought last year. That affects our local market. Even if they get some rain there, how long will it take for them to fully recover? Export markets and prices for other feed will affect prices, too.”

The Sharps have been putting up 4 x 4 x 8’ packages for years. They have two new high-density balers on order and will be switching to 3 x 4 x 8’ bales when the new machines arrive. “It will give us a few more marketing options. For one reason or another, the 3 x 4’ bales are becoming more popular with dairies and feedlots. We’re also looking at the possibility of getting into the export market, and that size bale seems to work better for the containers.”

To contact the Sharps, call 928-785-9338 or email davidsharp@hughes.net.