One of the Midwest’s largest regularly scheduled hay auctions is expanding to a second location.

Rock Valley Hay Auction has held hay and straw sales in Rock Valley, IA, since the mid-1940s. Starting Feb. 19, sales will also be held 80 miles west in Yankton, SD, several times each month.

“It’s a little different trade area for us,” says auction owner Paul McGill. “We get some hay out of that area now. But with the new location, we’ll be a little closer to some of the feedlots and large dairies in southeast South Dakota and northeast Nebraska.”

At startup, McGill plans to hold the Yankton auctions every other Wednesday through May. (See the Rock Valley Hay Auction website for dates.) After that, he’ll determine if volume and buyer attendance warrant holding auctions more frequently. “People’s time is valuable,” says McGill, who has owned Rock Valley Hay for 18 years. “If we only have a few loads coming in at each sale, people could lose interest pretty quickly. Once we get the business built up, we can think about having sales more often.”

Hay sales at McGill’s Iowa location are held at 12:30 p.m. on Mondays and Thursdays from November through April. The rest of the year, sales are held on Thursdays only.

At Monday sales during the winter, the auction typically moves 500-1,000 tons of hay and straw. The Thursday sales are generally larger, with 700-2,000 tons moving through.


 

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For the winter so far, the market trend has definitely been downward, says McGill. “We’ve had good quantity at the sales, but the quality of the hay we’ve been seeing is a lot lower than it’s been the last couple of years.”

Lower demand is also playing a role. “We’ve had a cold winter, but we really haven’t had a lot of snow cover. So the cows have been out on cornstalks all winter, and farmers aren’t using up as much hay as they ordinarily would.”

In recent weeks, medium-quality dairy hay brought $160-210/ton with “a very few” loads topping $200/ton. “Last year at this time, that kind of hay was selling for about $270/ton. Overall, we’re probably looking at a difference of about $130/ton between this year and last year.”

Grass hay has averaged $100/ton. “The better grass is selling for about $110-135, but we just aren’t seeing a lot of it.”

McGill believes the market may be close to a bottom. “If we’re not there yet, we’re close,” he says. “Right now, it looks like we’ve returned to a more typical cycle. Once we start getting into March, the supply usually tightens up, and we get a spring rally for hay prices.  This year, it may not be a big one. But it looks like it’s going to be there.”

Contact McGill at 712-470-1274 or paulmcgill67@hotmail.com.

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