It’s been a good spring for many Idaho commercial hay growers. Not only is harvest mostly on schedule, with dairy-hay first cuttings taken in late May, but there has been growing interest from water-short California, says Glenn Shewmaker, University of Idaho Extension forage specialist.
Precipitation in late winter, coupled with recent warm weather, created good growing conditions for much of the state. Yields were slightly above normal on first cuttings of Shewmaker’s variety trials in south-central Idaho, but below normal in eastern Idaho.
“I think most of this dairy hay is going to be put up in good shape,” he says. “Things look pretty good (for the summer) if it doesn’t get too hot.”
However, growers in Idaho’s upper mountain valleys have had a cold spring and are dealing with drought. Yields will likely be below normal, Shewmaker adds.
Nearly 65% of the state is coping with clover root curculio, a pest whose larvae feast on alfalfa roots, according to reports the forage specialist has collected. The pest can reduce yield and harm stands, particularly older stands.
The state’s hay market has been slow but steady, Shewmaker says, with the edge going to sellers. Many are waiting to see how the California drought affects demand before selling; dairies are looking to buy what they can.
Supreme-quality alfalfa last week sold for $250-260/ton, about $30/ton higher than in mid-May, because of the interest from California dairies, says Greg Sanders, USDA market reporter in Moses Lake, WA. “There are a lot of California buyers in Idaho right now.”