A cold start to the growing season, low supplies and the recent uptick in the dairy business could keep upward pressure on the price of high-quality hay in the months ahead. So says Walnut, IL, hay grower Kendall Guither.

“A couple of months ago, I was thinking top-end hay prices would probably be coming down by $15/ton or so once we started getting into new crop,” says Guither. “But, right now, I’m thinking they’ll hold steady or maybe even go up a little bit.”

One reason why: A limited supply coming out of the winter feeding season. “Right now, everybody is running out of feed. And the really good hay is all gone,” he says.

Guither, named the 2014 American Forage & Grassland Council Forage Spokesperson, grows alfalfa baleage on 385 acres, marketing to cow and goat dairies in Iowa, Illinois and Wisconsin.

In recent weeks, hay in the region with relative feed values (RFV) of 220-240 sold for $270-280/ton (dry hay basis) at the farm gate; 150-RFV hay brought $200/ton. “That’s a little less than we were seeing a year ago when we were so terribly short of hay because of the 2012 drought,” he says.

The cold spring could pressure supplies even more. Guither usually starts first cutting around May 1, but this year he’s been delayed by at least two weeks. “We’re not getting off to a really fast start. And if we get some wet weather like we did last year, that could create some scheduling problems (for cuttings). It will be harder to make quality hay.”

In the meantime, improved milk prices in recent months mean dairy producers may be willing to pay good prices for quality hay. “The demand is there.”

To contact Guither, call 815-878-5175 or email kguither@cin.net.