A late, hard freeze in mid-May slowed alfalfa growth just ahead of first-crop harvest in northeastern Colorado, reports grower Don Leonard.

“It froze the tops of the hay and sure set it back,” says Leonard, of Don’s Hay Service in Brush. He raises alfalfa on 600 acres and does custom work on another 1,400 acres.

Even before the freeze, the alfalfa had been slow to grow. “It started out pretty good this spring, and we had plenty of irrigation water. But we also ended up getting lots of wind and cold weather. It just hasn’t been warm enough for the hay to grow as well as it could. As a result, we’re likely to be a little short on yield for this first cutting.”

Buyers have been slow to contract new crop so far. “It’s tough to get anybody excited about buying right now,” says Leonard, who was looking to start first cutting the end of last week.

“It goes back to last year when a lot of people bought early, thinking the supply was going to be short. When prices came down later, they were still holding a lot of that hay. They felt like they had been burned. As a result, nobody wants to inventory hay right now like they have in the past.”

Leonard looks for new-crop prices to be off slightly compared to those of a year ago. “We’ll probably see good dairy hay start off at around $200/ton. Last year, the price was closer to $240-250/ton.”

More “average” hay is likely to bring $150/ton, down $30-40/ton from what was sold a year ago. “There’s probably more than enough of it around to meet everyone’s needs,” he says.

Leonard can be reached at 970-380-2044 or donshayservice@yahoo.com.