An oversupply of lower-quality grass and alfalfa hay has kept downward pressure on prices at the Madison County Ag Auction’s weekly hay and straw sales near Alton, IL. “We’ve been moving a lot of hay through each week,” reports auction co-owner Mike Hamilton. “But a lot of what we’re seeing is lower-end hay. As a result, prices overall are definitely lower.”

For grass hay, in large round 800-lb bales, buyers paid $20-35/bale, depending on quality, in recent weeks. That’s off by about 50% from year-ago prices.

Large round bales of lower- to mid-quality alfalfa, since the first of the year, are selling for $30-35/bale. That’s a quarter of what they went for last year. Prices for dairy-quality hay in large- and medium-square bales are down by the same amount from year-ago levels.

But local interest has picked up in recent weeks.

“We’ve had some very nice hay out of Kansas at the last couple of sales, but not all that much. For the most part, the better-quality alfalfa has already been contracted or bought up,” says Hamilton, noting that prices have been in the $60-85/bale range.

That should hold the price of dairy alfalfa at least steady over the next several months, he says. “The market could even get a little stronger. There’s a shortage of top-end hay, and milk prices have been coming up some recently.”

The market for small squares has also been split along quality lines. Better-quality alfalfa and alfalfa-grass hay sold for $7-8/bale. “That’s if you can find it.” Sunbleached small squares, on the other hand, have fetched $4-5/bale.

Hay and straw sales at Madison County will be held every Saturday this winter through the first Saturday in April. All sales begin at 11 a.m. To contact Hamilton, call 618-410-4293 or email


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