With dry weather severely crimping production, dairy-quality alfalfa prices in Michigan and neighboring states are headed considerably higher. The big question, says grower Mike Lauwers of Capac, is how much higher will they go?
Last year, the going price in Lauwers’ area was around $1.20 per point of RFV. “We heard reports about hay out of Iowa last year going for $1.40/point. The way things are shaping up, I’d say it’s going to be at least that here, if not more, by the time we’re done this year.”
Lauwers annually puts up 800 acres of alfalfa and 200 acres of orchardgrass hay in large square bales. Large dairies in Ohio take most of his alfalfa; the orchardgrass goes to horse interests.
Winterkill, especially on older stands, coupled with a late-April freeze, knocked back Lauwers’ first-crop yields by about one third this year. In a normal year, he gets 2-2.5 tons/acre. A long stretch of dry weather following first-crop harvest meant he only got two-thirds of a normal second cutting as well. He did get 0.6” of rain in mid-July, but doubts that it will be enough to boost third-crop production much. “Hopefully, we’ll get some kind of fourth cutting this year. That’s the good thing about hay. It can come back. With corn, once it goes, it’s gone for good.”
In the meantime, demand for hay has been steadily building throughout the region. “I’ve been getting three or four calls a day from potential new customers looking for hay,” he says. “But I have to take care of my existing customers, people who have been with me for 10 years, first.”
To contact Lauwers, call 810-343-0671 or email email@example.com.