California

California is very short of hay, helping to drive record-setting prices, says Dan Putnam, University of California alfalfa and forage extension specialist. "We've really never seen such high prices for alfalfa hay," he reports. "It's been a good summer for producing alfalfa hay, with high yields, but we're still short of hay." He says producers in the Central Valley are baling cornstalks to help feed dry cows and heifers. The state's 1.8 million dairy cows, as well as the beef cow and horse populations, create a relentless demand for forages. Putnam says there is a lot more interest in small grain and corn silage than in previous years, but high prices for corn and wheat grain have caused competition for forage acres. Dairies are looking for all types of forages. Hay is coming into the state from Nevada, Utah and Oregon to help meet demand.

"The negative in this decent production year has been high fuel costs for transportation," Putnam says. California hay producers have also been struggling with the extra labor demands that come with the Roundup Ready alfalfa bale tagging requirements.

Contact Putnam at 530-752-8982.

Nebraska

Drought, a spring freeze, potato leafhoppers and persistent rain are all contributing to a strong market for high-quality hay in Nebraska, reports Bruce Anderson, University of Nebraska extension forage specialist. He urges growers to capture some of those high prices. "Hay cut in September and October usually is the best-quality hay of the year," he states. "If you put up this hay correctly, it should bring $125-150 per ton, maybe even more. It will need to be baled without rain damage in heavy, square, transportable packages with most of the leaves intact. It should be stored under cover to prevent weather damage and then marketed to get its true value. Take advantage of good prices when you can. It doesn't happen every day."

Contact Anderson at 402-472-6237.