As dairies in the region continue to struggle with low milk prices, demand for alfalfa hay in Kansas has slackened this summer. That’s according to Steve Hessman, reporter with the Kansas Department of Agriculture-USDA Market News in Dodge City.

“Even with their premiums, most dairies aren’t making any money,” he says. For instance, the August futures price for Class III milk at mid-week last week was just $17.84/cwt.

Many dairy and beef producers are switching to alternative forages in their rations, he notes. “And they’re buying hand-to-mouth for the most part.”

Currently, top price on supreme-quality alfalfa is $280/ton. Most premium alfalfa is going for $250-260/ton at the farm. “That’s not as high as it was this past winter (when prices topped $300/ton). But for growers who were able to get the tonnage, it’s still a very good price.”

The weather compounded problems for growers through the first two cuttings this season. Two late freezes, coupled with drought, crimped first-crop yields in many areas, Hessman reports. “It cost people both in terms of quantity and quality. In some areas, growers lost entire cuttings.”

During second cutting, growers contended with frequent rainfalls. “In parts of central Kansas, it was almost too wet. The quality on a lot of hay wasn’t what most producers would ordinarily expect.”

As third cutting gets underway, he expects yields to improve. “With cooler temperatures the last couple of weeks and the rain we’ve had, we should see a pretty decent cutting over most of the state. The one exception would be in western Kansas, where it’s still extremely dry.”

Contact Hessman at 620-227-8881.

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