Hay growers should focus on what ideal customers would want before selling their hay by auction, according to auction market experts. "Try to harvest at the quality that will be desired at the marketplace," says Dan Martens, a University of Minnesota extension educator for Stearns, Benton and Morrison counties, who is based in Foley. "Try to get the hay put up in good physical condition. Aim for the best you can for quality parameters, such as good moisture content and the best relative feed value (RFV)." Since 2001, Martens has analyzed results of the Quality Tested Hay Auctions held in Sauk Centre. He says some people question whether auctions are accurate market indicators. He believes they give growers a read of what people are thinking.

Hay growers, Martens says, should continue to sharpen their skills to figure out which quality hays fit the needs of their livestock and their hay customers. "Producers should know what their targets are, both in the field and in the ration," he says. Dairy-hay buyers dominate the Sauk Centre market area, so Martens urges local growers to ask dairy nutritionists what buyers are looking for. "Getting the hay put up in good condition is very important," he adds. Good hay-test results get buyer attention.

Bob Humpal, owner of Fort Atkinson (IA) Hay Company, offers growers the following suggestions: "Have your hay tested. Store it inside and try to do everything you can to have good color, both in round and square bales. Make sure round bales are net-wrapped, too." Hay stacked neatly, so it looks presentable, is also important, he says.

The Sauk Centre Hay Auction is held 12:30 p.m. on the first and third Thursdays of each month from September through May. Visit www.midamericanauctioninc.com/Pages/hay_sales.html. For Martens' summary of auction results, click www.extension.umn.edu/cropenews/hay/index.html.
Contact Martens at 320-968-5077.

The Fort Atkinson hay auction is held every Wednesday at 1 p.m. Visit www.fortatkinsonhay.com/. Contact Humpal at 563-534-7513.