The owner of Dakota Hay Auction at Corsica, SD, opened a companion auction 70 miles east in Parker on Feb. 1 of this year. His goal: to make it easier and less costly for hay sellers to move their product to market.

“A lot of hay this year is coming out of North Dakota and northern South Dakota,” says Willy Groeneweg. “We wanted to see if we could shorten up the distance that people would have to travel to get their hay to auction. Also, we’ve been getting quite a few buyers out of northern Nebraska and eastern South Dakota. Having a second site will make things more convenient for them as well.”

The first Parker auction drew six loads of hay. A week later, the auction sold 10 loads. “Of course, we’d like to see more hay showing up,” says Groeneweg. “But whenever you start a new business, it can take awhile for word to get around. When we started at Corsica, we were happy to get 10 loads in a week at first.”

The volume of hay moving through that auction so far this winter is up about a third from year-ago levels. And buyers have been coming from longer distances. “Last year, we figured most of our buyers were located within a 40-mile radius of the auction. This year, people are coming from 140 to 150 miles away. It shows just how tight supplies in the region are.”

For most of the winter, prices at Corsica have been up 30-50% across the board over last year’s prices, he reports. Good-quality alfalfa in large round bales is currently bringing $265-300/ton. “We haven’t seen any alfalfa going for less than $200/ton. Even two-year-old stuff is bringing that price.”

For good grass hay in round bales, buyers have been paying anywhere from $160/ton to $260/ton, with a top so far this year of $265/ton. CRP grass hay has been fetching $135-160/ton.

The market is close to topping, if it’s not there already, Groeneweg believes. “We’re in a cow-calf area, and a lot of people are just trying to survive right now. If these prices were to get much higher, people would start selling off their cattle rather pay more for hay.”

The Parker sales are scheduled for 1 p.m. on Fridays year-round. The Corsica hay auctions will continue to be held 1 p.m. on Mondays throughout the year.

For more information, including reports on recent sales and consignment listings for upcoming auctions, check out the Dakota Hay Auction website or call Groeneweg at 605-770-0662.