The hay-growing season is off to a good start in southern Oregon’s Klamath Basin.

“We usually don’t get going on first cutting until June 10, but this year we were running about two weeks ahead of normal,” says David King, a grower from Malin, and secretary of the Oregon Hay & Forage Association.

“The yield was good, and quality was right up there where we like to see it. We had some rain right at the tail-end of first cutting, but only 5-10% of the acreage was affected.”

King farms about 2,500 acres, with alfalfa accounting for about 75% of his forage production. The rest is an alfalfa-orchardgrass mix, grass hay and grain hay. About 70% of his forage, put in 3 x 4 x 8’ bales and in three-twine bales weighing 100 or 140 lbs, is sold to the export market. He also sells to retail feed stores and dairies in California’s Central Valley.

Prices for good-test, new-crop alfalfa have been stronger than many growers were anticipating at the start of the season. At the stack, the “best hay” is bringing  $220-225/ton, King says. “That’s down just $5/ton or so from what we saw on first crop a year ago. “But a lot of growers were thinking the drop would be more like $25/ton.”

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Poor weather in other nearby hay-growing areas played a major role in the lower-than-expected price drop. “In central California to the south of us, they had some rain on their early cuttings. Rainy weather was a problem in the Columbia Basin to the north, too. As a result, there wasn’t a lot of high-test hay put up. We just happened to be in a good spot here.”

A stretch of rainy weather in late June and early July delayed the start of second cutting in King’s area. Even so, King figures many growers in the area will be able to get four cuttings this year. “Usually, about 20% of the acres in our area get a fourth cutting. This year, that could be as high as 60-75% because of the early start.“

Read more from the West:

Washington Hay Acres Go To Other Crops

Near-Perfect Start For Montana Hay

Fungal Diseases Heat Up In California Alfalfa