After a good start to the haymaking season, Kansas growers are seeing a return to the hot and dry conditions that characterized much of 2011, reports Steve Hessman, reporter with USDA-Kansas Department of Agriculture Market News in Dodge City.

The weather forecast from early last week called for daytime high temperatures throughout the state to approach or exceed 100° for at least a week – with little or no chance of significant rainfall.

“It’s not the kind of weather that’s good for alfalfa,” says Hessman. “It’s starting to look a lot like last year, maybe a little better but not a lot.”

Plenty of moisture and an early warmup this spring had raised the hopes of growers in most of the state. “With just a few exceptions, we had pretty good first and second cuttings. Because of the early start, some irrigated growers were thinking this might be a year when they could get six cuttings (five are normal). But with the kind of weather we’ve been getting recently, that doesn’t look likely now. Moisture will be the limiting factor. They just don’t have enough water to go that long of a season.”

Third cutting was just getting under way in some parts of the state last week. “Irrigated growers who got their first crop off early will probably get an okay third crop. For those who didn’t, there’s not going to be much for yields.”

With pastures drying up, many cow-calf producers have started to supplement their grass by feeding hay. That’s putting upward pressure on prices. Good grass hay, packaged in small squares, is selling for $120-130/ton. Large squares are bringing $110-130.

Grinding-quality alfalfa headed for beef feedlots in southwestern Kansas was fetching $150-185 at the start of the growing season. “Today, it will take $200/ton to get any hay bought, and there’s very little out there for sale.”

Dairy-quality alfalfa is selling for $190-230/ton in the stack, with most being sold in the $200-220 range. “There’s not much trade,” says Hessman. “Buyers aren’t willing to go any higher on price at this point. The milk price is low, and they just can’t pay that big money for feed. And sellers won’t take less. Things are at a standoff.”

Hessman can be contacted at 620-227-8881 or steve.hessman@kda.ks.gov.