With irrigation water in short supply, alfalfa production in northeastern Colorado stands to be off by 40% or more this year, says Don Leonard of Brush.

“We’re just about out of water,” says the alfalfa grower, who has 450 irrigated acres and custom harvests 1,500 hay acres. “We didn’t have a bang-up first cutting and our second cutting is minimal.”

In a typical year, Leonard, also secretary of the Colorado Hay and Forage Association, will take three, sometimes four, cuttings. This year he expects to get only two cuttings on some of his fields. “Unless it really takes to raining, the hay just isn’t going to be there. Even then, we still won’t have the irrigation water we need to bring the crop on.”

Beef-quality hay in Leonard’s area is currently fetching $220/ton at the stack. “That’s a little higher than last year. We’ve been getting calls from people looking for every quality.”

Supreme-quality alfalfa is selling for $260-270/ton, about the same as it was last year. Leonard believes some dairy producers are holding off on buying, thinking the price will come down. “But when you look at the whole picture, the supply just isn’t out there. Also, from the producers’ standpoint, we’re going to be short on tons. We still have to try to recover a year’s worth of expenses that we’ve invested in the hay. I just don’t see how prices can come down very much, if at all.”

To contact Leonard, call 970-380-2044 or email donshay@kci.net.