After surging late last summer and early fall in response to the severe drought, prices for beef hay in southwestern Missouri appear to be cooling off, reports Eldon Cole.

Currently, grass hay – mostly fescue packaged in large round bales weighing around 1,000 lbs – has been bringing $40/bale locally, says the Mt. Vernon-based livestock specialist with University of Missouri (MU) Extension.

“Last summer and fall, when we were so dry, the price per bale was closer to $60-65 for the same kind of hay,” he says. “And a lot of those bales were probably in the range of 800-900 lbs. It was a very strong market, mostly because nobody wanted to give up any hay.”

Relatively mild winter weather so far has helped ease prices, says Cole. “We really haven’t had any snow or ice to speak of. And our temperatures have been on the normal side. So there hasn’t been a lot of stressful weather as far as animal comfort is concerned. As a result, we haven’t seen as much hay being fed.”

Some livestock producers may be tentative about selling surplus hay stocks given current soil-moisture levels, Cole believes. “We had 2” of rain in mid-January. But over the last two years, we’re still 25” below normal for precipitation in the area. That could be causing some livestock producers, who might otherwise be trying to sell some of their extra hay at this time of year, to hold back. They’re thinking that if we have another dry year in 2013, they might need that hay.”

Cole advised buyers and sellers to check out MU Extension's Missouri Hay Market Listings. Contact Cole at 417-466-3102 or

Read a report on Cole's expeiriences at a recent southwestern Missouri hay auction.