An extremely mild winter to date has taken pressure off hay supplies and prices in Maryland, reports Les Vough, University of Maryland Extension emeritus forage specialist. “We had our biggest snowfall of the season back in October, and we haven’t had to deal with much in the way of cold weather. In early February, we were walking around in shirtsleeves.”

The mild weather has enabled livestock owners to keep their animals on pasture for much of the winter, reducing supplemental hay feeding. “The biggest issue we have is that, because it’s been so warm, the ground never really froze. If the animals are on a pasture for more than a day or so, things get torn up pretty quickly.”

Currently, the supply of mediocre-quality hay in the state appears to be plentiful. High-quality hay is a little tougher to find. “We had some difficult conditions for putting up hay; a lot of our first crop was either rained on, overly mature when it was baled or both.”

The shortage of quality hay is reflected by recent sales prices at local auctions. High-quality small squares have been bringing $7-10/bale. By way of comparison, lower-quality small squares have been selling for $2.50-4/bale. “I’ve never seen a range like that,” says Vough.

Vough can be contacted at 301-405-1322 or vough@umd.edu.