Five to seven loads of 3 x 3 x 8’ wheat-straw bales have been moving weekly from Manitoba through the Dyersville Sales Co., Dyersville, IA, reports auction owner Randy Hess.

The straw, which Hess describes as “a good, clean product,” has been bringing anywhere from $25 to $35/bale, or roughly $80-120/ton. It’s economically feasible to haul because truckers have had success in finding farm-equipment backhauls. Buyers are using the straw for bedding and to lower ration costs.

At the same time, the volume of hay for sale is down. “People have been busy with the corn and soybean harvest and not thinking much about hay,” he says. “Once the grain harvest is over, I expect we’ll start to see more hay moving.”

Currently, dairy-quality alfalfa hay has been bringing around $225-300/ton at the auction. “The price depends on how good it is,” says Hess. “There’s not a surplus of it around by any means.”

Good grass hay has been bringing $100-200/ton, depending on quality, while CRP hay has been fetching $50-120/ton. Across the board, prices are running as much as 40% higher than they were a year ago.

With short supplies, Hess looks for hay prices to remain strong through winter. “I don’t think there’s a big pile of hay out there waiting to be sold, and that will keep the pressure on the price. About the only thing that could cause prices to back off would be a lot of herd liquidations by livestock producers. That’s always a possibility. We’ll just have to wait and see.”

Manitoba straw has also been showing up at the weekly Fort Atkinson Hay auction in Ft. Atkinson, IA. “We’ve been getting anywhere from one to two loads a week over the past month or so,” reports auction owner Carl Shirk. It’s been bringing $110-115/ton.

Hay tonnage sold has dropped steadily through the early fall months, he says, and could continue over the next several. “Farmers have been getting some big corn and soybean checks. They don’t want to be selling any more until after the first of the year for tax purposes.”

Dairy-quality alfalfa has been hard to come by there. Third-crop round bales sold in the $220-240/ton range at a sale earlier this month. Alfalfa-grass hay has been bringing $215-235/ton. Those prices are $100-125/ton higher than they were a year ago.

The weekly Wednesday hay auction at Dyersville begins at 11 a.m. For information, call 563-875-2481. The Fort Atkinson hay auction, also held on Wednesdays, starts at 1 p.m. Call 563-534-7513 or email forthay@acegroup.cc.