The amount of hay and straw moving through the Tim Slack Auction & Realty, LLC, hay sale, in Lancaster, WI, has increased in recent weeks. High-quality alfalfa and alfalfa-grass continue to bring strong prices. But prices for average- and poor-quality hay have lagged, mostly due to plentiful supply.

At the auction’s March 14 sale, 900 tons of hay and straw were offered. That’s a record for the auction, which has been in business since 2008.

“A combination of factors was probably at work,” says auctioneer Tim Slack. “Some sellers were holding onto hay thinking prices were likely to get a lot stronger once we got into mid-March. But now it’s looking like that’s not going to be the case. So they’ve decided it’s time to unload what they have.

“Also, we had a lot of snow this winter. People weren’t able to get to the hay they had stacked out in fields. Now, with some of that snow melting, they can finally get at it and move it to market.”

A load of fourth-cutting alfalfa-grass hay in 3 x 3 x 7' large squares was the top seller at the same sale, bringing $250/ton. The range on “better-quality” hay from second, third and fourth cuttings was $175-235/ton. “The good-quality dairy hay is still bringing good money and is pretty easy to sell.”

First cuttings of alfalfa and alfalfa-grass were bringing $140-150/ton. “We had a lot of rain in May and June, so a lot of that hay got put up late, got rained on or both. A lot of it was stemmy and coarse, and buyers have been shying away from it.”

The top-selling load of round bales on March 14 brought $167.50/ton. “A lot of hay was sold in that $110-140/ton range. But to get $140, it had to be pretty bright-colored. The plainer, long-stemmed, coarser hay got down to the $100/ton range real quickly.”

Across the board, Slack says, prices are down about $100/ton compared to what they were a year ago. But, he adds, that’s a little misleading. “Last winter, we were seeing tops of $350/ton; it was just such an unusual year. What we’re seeing now are prices that are more normal. Overall, they’re still pretty strong.”

The Lancaster sales are held year-round on Fridays, starting at noon, just north of Lancaster on U.S. Highway 61. For more information, contact Slack at 608-988-6464 or slackauc@tds.net.