Barb Kinnan hasn’t seen much price spread in recent months between hay that’s sold to beef vs. dairy producers. “Prices for grinding hay are running $90-100/ton, with dairy hay running $100-140/ton and a few spot loads at $150/ton,” says Kinnan, executive director of the Nebraska Alfalfa Marketing Association (NAMA). “Small squares for the horse market are ranging from $140 to $300/ton.”

“Supplies of dairy quality hay are very tight,” she says. “But that isn’t reflected in those prices simply because milk prices have been so poor – although they’re starting to gradually improve. Dairy producers just can’t afford to pay more, whereas beef prices have been good.”

Demand for Nebraska hay has been exceptionally strong in recent months from dairy and beef producers in drought-stricken Kansas, Texas and Oklahoma, she says. Some hay is moving to Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. “Producers there aren’t looking as actively as they have in previous years because they had a better production year themselves and have been able to utilize closer-to-home hay supplies and good corn-silage inventories.”

The NAMA Web site currently has less than 2,500 tons of inventory – a figure that includes some wheat straw and cane, says Kinnan. “That’s less inventory than we had listed when we launched the Web site 10 years ago.” At the time of the 2006 World Dairy Expo, she had 7,800 tons on inventory, down from 29,500 tons one year earlier.

Call Kinnan at 800-743-1649 or visit

Pacific Northwest & California

“Hay supplies were tight last year, but they’re even tighter this year.” So says Jack Getz, who heads USDA Market News for Washington, Idaho, Oregon and California from his Moses Lake, WA, office. “Production wasn’t that good in some areas last year due to rain and hot weather, and some places – particularly parts of California – had more pest pressure. There were severe armyworm infestations.”

Prices for dairy-quality hay are running $5-10/ton higher than month-ago levels. “Lower milk prices have kept a ceiling on hay prices. If milk prices were higher, alfalfa prices would be, too,” says Getz.

Hay users looking for some relief from new-crop California hay will have to wait a little bit longer, he reports. “It’s been colder than normal in the Imperial Valley and for a longer period of time than usual. A lot of that hay got set back; it will be a month or so before any volume comes out of there. That has a lot of people nervous who were counting on having something in February.” On the bright side, he says the mountains in Washington, Oregon and Idaho have all gotten snow this year.

“It’s going to be a very interesting year and, as always, the weather will have the last say,” Getz concludes. Contact him at 509-765-3611.