Alfalfa first cuttings got underway in many parts of Oklahoma in late April. Where new-crop prices might be headed, however, remains a question, says Jack Carson, reporter with the USDA-Oklahoma Department of Agriculture Market News.

“Up to this point, everybody has been holding back on setting a price,” says Carson. “That’s very unusual. Normally, by this time, we’d have quite a bit of this first cutting sold and a market pretty well-established.”

But extremely limited moisture so far this year caused a production shortfall on first crop throughout the state. “Yields are dramatically lower, even on many irrigated fields,” he says. “In some places, we’ve heard reports about fields that were cut but you couldn’t tell there were windrows.”

Changes in the dairy situation are also coming into play. “Milk prices are better than they were a year ago – a lot better. So many hay growers are thinking their hay should be worth more. But nobody really knows how to price that hay. It’s very much unsettled.”

Forage quality, however, looks to be up in many cases. “Those who got out and took care of the bugs early are saying their crop is looking pretty good.”

As of May 2, old-crop premium alfalfa was priced at $210-230/ton – “if you can find any,” says Carson. “Brokers and truckers tell me it’s gone. There’s probably a load or two of it around somewhere, but the supply isn’t significant.”

New-crop hay prices are likely to be higher, Carson predicts. “How much higher, though, is anybody's guess.”

To contact Carson, call 405-522-3752 or email jack.carson@ag.ok.gov.