First cutting got off to a good start in northeastern Colorado, says Tess Norvell, market reporter with USDA/Colorado Department of Agriculture Market News in Greeley, CO.

Growers there “had some spring snows and spring rains. First-cutting yields and production have been pretty good,” she says.

Southeastern growers in the state haven’t been as fortunate. “They haven’t had any moisture to speak of. We’ve heard reports that yields in some areas are off by 50-60%.” In the southwestern part of the state, a cool spring limited yields.

The weather differences are reflected in regional prices. New-crop premium alfalfa in large square bales brought $240-250/ton at the stack in the northeast. That’s down $10/ton from old-crop prices reported at the end of May and beginning of June this year, but $20-30 higher than in June 2012.

In the southeast, premium alfalfa sold for $275-300/ton at the stack. “Prices there really haven’t backed off from last year’s levels at all,” says Norvell.

A week with temperatures in the 90s earlier this month has growers in many parts of the state concerned about the availability of irrigation water for the rest of the growing season. “The snow pack is melting rapidly,” she reports. “It’s dropped 35% in the last month. Reservoir levels are at 78% of average. And because we’re under drought restriction in many areas, a lot of water is getting pulled to the cities. That’s water that won’t be available for irrigating hay and other crops.”

To contact Norvell, call 970-353-9750 or email tess.norvell@ams.usda.gov.

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