Look for top-grade hay in Michigan to remain at current prices for the months ahead, says Jerry Lindquist, grazing and crop management educator with Michigan State University Extension.

He bases that forecast on a tight supply situation brought about by variable weather throughout the growing season. Cold, wet weather kept many growers from harvesting first crop at peak quality. “A lot of people just couldn’t get it made on time,” says Lindquist.

In mid-July, the weather turned hot and dry and stayed that way through this past week. That led to less-than-average yields for second and third cuttings in many parts of the state. “We just haven’t been able to increase the supplies of high-quality hay from last year’s drought,” he adds.

Prices have increased; higher-quality alfalfa is bringing $220-290/ton. While that’s high by historical standards, it’s down slightly compared to last winter’s highest prices. “People have been paying close attention to the futures markets, and they’re anticipating the prices of corn and soybeans (alternatives to alfalfa in dairy rations) are going to drop,” says Lindquist. “That takes some of the pressure off of hay prices. We’re also likely to see more corn silage being made because of the dry weather.”

There’s a lack of the “panic mentality” evident with many buyers during the 2012 drought, he notes. “A lot of people here were busy this summer trying to line up a hay supply. As a result, more people have a larger forage supply on hand than they did last year at this time.”

Lindquist’s bottom line: “I don’t think hay prices will go a lot higher. But prices, especially the higher-quality hay prices, are not coming down either.”

Contact Lindquist at 231-832-6139 or lindquis@msu.edu.

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