Oklahoma’s early season growing conditions are the polar opposite of last year’s.

Alfalfa first cuttings have been disappointing at best due to a lack of rainfall throughout the state, says Jack Carson, reporter with the USDA-Oklahoma Department of Agriculture Market News.

“We have excellent quality hay but not much of it,” he adds. “Right now, we're kind of waiting on things to develop. It’s been kind of a slow start.”

First-cutting yields have been about 40-50% of average, Carson notes. For example, one producer near Enid harvested 300 acres and made just 15 bales of hay.

“That's not much hay. There were some areas in south-central Oklahoma that made yields that were certainly below average, but they weren’t that bad. And we had some irrigated alfalfa that was pretty close to normal for yield.”

Last year at this time, an abundance of late-spring and early summer moisture aided growth but kept producers from putting up hay.

As a result, alfalfa tended to be overly mature and quality was typically rated fair to good, Carson recalls.

“We didn't have that much of the true premium- and supreme-quality dairy hay.”

An adequate supply of mediocre alfalfa, coupled with depressed milk prices, meant lower hay prices for sellers in 2013, Carson adds.

This year, early hay supplies are down and milk prices are up, resulting in growing demand among dairy producers. But nobody is in too much of a panic yet.

“The dairies are still pretty reluctant to get too carried away on the delivery price,” Carson says. “There are some hay growers who are asking for higher prices, but they are not getting those markets yet.”