Combined snowfall amounts of 1-2’ from two late-winter storms buoyed the spirits of hay producers in many parts of Kansas during the last two weeks of February. But an overall deficit in subsoil moisture remains a big concern looking toward the 2013 production season, reports Steve Hessman, reporter with USDA-Kansas Department of Agriculture Market News in Dodge City.

“We’ve been extremely dry since the first of the year,” says Hessman. “The snow we got will help, but it wasn’t a drought-buster by any means. In a lot of areas, there still isn’t enough moisture out there to make a decent first cutting of hay.”

Demand for hay, which has been relatively soft in most parts of the state since December, could get a short-term boost from the February storms. “With prices as high as they’ve been, livestock producers haven’t been keeping any more hay on hand than they absolutely needed. With these storms, they’ll have to use up more of their stockpile. That will increase demand some. We just don’t know how much.”

Slack demand has kept alfalfa prices steady throughout most of the winter. As of mid-February, premium alfalfa was bringing $250-270/ton in southwestern Kansas, $230-250/ton in north-central and northeastern regions and $230-240/ton in the northwest. Hessman cautions, though, that trade has been slow. “What has been traded recently has mostly been at the bottom end of those price ranges.”

Given weak financial returns in the dairy and feedlot sectors, Hessman believes hay prices will stay on the soft side at least until new crop comes on. “When your customers aren’t making a profit, they can’t afford to pay more for hay.”

To contact Hessman, call 620-227-8881 or email stevehessman@kda.ks.gov.