Hay shortages in parts of Nevada continue to prop up prices in that region, reports Danny Tailaferro, sales and marketing director at the Nevada Hay Growers Association (NHGA) in Yerington.

Large squares of premium-quality alfalfa, sold mostly to California dairy operations, go for $315-320/ton, up almost $100/ton since the start of 2014, Tailaferro says. Good-quality alfalfa for beef cattle operations is currently priced at $260/ton, an increase of about $70/ton since January.

Retail alfalfa horse hay presently sells for $290/ton, he notes. Orchardgrass hay averages $340-350/ton, while alfalfa-grass hay fetches $330/ton.

“Our prices are quite a bit higher,” he says. “Yet we’ve still been moving hay up until this point.”

NHGA’s 70-plus grower-members collectively sell between 90,000-100,000 tons of irrigated hay annually. Alfalfa accounts for about 90% of the hay sold through the association.

Ongoing drought conditions in California and Nevada continue to suppress hay supplies, and recent rains have lessened the quality of some bales, Tailaferro says.

Demand for all hay, however, remains strong. Because some California dairies scrambled to buy enough hay last winter, Tailaferro believes they aren’t making that same mistake this year.

“They’ve jumped on our early crop instead of waiting,” he says, adding that government drought assistance payments have provided some California farmers with the cash necessary to buy hay now.

Subscribe to eHay Weekly and get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.

Some NHGA members won’t be able to take full advantage of the situation, Tailaferro says. Irrigation water was cut off to many operations in mid-July, limiting some growers to just two cuttings of hay. Most Nevada growers average three to five cuttings per season when water supplies are adequate, he notes.

Hay supplies will continue to be tight because of the lack of water, he expects.

“Prices are going to stay up there and maybe even climb. There just isn’t going to be much hay available.”

To contact Tailaferro, call 775-463-2325 or email danny@nevadahaygrowers.com.