Kansas hay producers are crossing their fingers and hoping for a good fall cutting of dairy hay to help offset the production losses incurred during a tough season. "Most Kansas hay producers would like to have this year behind them," says Steve Hessman, USDA Market News reporter in Dodge City. "It was tough to out-guess the weather or plan between storms." The year started out with most hayfields growing early, only to be hit hard by the April freeze.

And then it got wet. Far western counties had some damage, but central Kansas was especially hard-hit. "Conditions were so wet in central Kansas that hay was dying," says Hessman. "Fields were waterlogged and diseases set in. Now they have dried out and growers have been able to put up some dry, green hay, but there isn't a lot of quality hay. It has been tough." Growers in southwestern Kansas have done better. "The rain did damage some hay," he says. "The first cutting wasn't great, but a lot of dry, green hay was put up that was actually beautiful but didn't test very well. Occasionally, producers in that area are able to get some dairy hay. Their timing is off as far as cuttings, which is related to the Easter weekend freeze." An August heat wave has added stress to the alfalfa, causing early bloom and resulting in lower quality.

Some Kansans may get five cuttings. "We just aren't sure what our opportunities are yet for a good fall cutting of dairy-quality hay," Hessman says. "We are hoping to get a good fifth cutting. The dairies need it, but we aren't sure at this time if that is going to happen."

Prices have stayed strong for high-quality hay, but have softened for low-quality hay. "There hasn't been as much demand for Kansas grinder hay going to Texas feedyards, because Oklahoma, Texas and southeastern Colorado have an overabundance of grinder hay this year," Hessman says. Some of the damaged hay isn't even finding a market.

Call Hessman at 620-227-8881.