Potential hay buyers in Michigan who haven’t lined up supply for the winter feeding season will want to act soon, warns Phil Kaatz, Michigan State University (MSU) Extension educator.

“You don’t want to wait until January to find a source,” he says. “With supplies as short as they are, it’s going to be difficult at best.”

Production was 50-60% of normal for all hay crops in the state this year, Kaatz estimates. A heavy frost in late April crimped first-crop yields by 50% in many areas. An extended drought kept subsequent production from coming back, particularly in the southern reaches of the state. “They did have better weather in northern Michigan, and that helped growers catch up some as the summer went along.”

Getting an accurate read on current hay prices in the state is difficult, he adds. Small square bales weighing 50 lbs are bringing from $4 to $10/bale at local auctions. “A lot depends on who’s buying and who’s selling on any given day.”

Prices for top-end dairy hay are also a moving target. “It is safe to say that they’re up from a year ago,” notes Kaatz. Where prices head from this point on is anybody’s guess.

State livestock numbers shouldn’t decrease dramatically in the months ahead, which could put more pressure on supply. “People also tend to forget that we sent hay to Texas and other drought states last year. So we didn’t have a lot in the way of reserves heading into the growing season. By the time we started making hay, many of our barns were pretty much cleaned out.”

At the same time, some producers could lay in supplies of alternative forages, including summer annuals, while others baled CRP acres. He also expects to see a fair amount of cornstalks being rolled up for use as feed this fall. “All of those things could take some pressure off the beef-hay supply.”

People looking to buy or sell hay in Michigan can check out the Hay Listing Network, maintained by the Michigan Forage Council, Michigan Farm Bureau and MSU Extension. To contact Kaatz, call 810-667-0341 or email kaatz@msu.edu.