Dairy customers in the Upper Midwest haven’t exactly been rushing to place orders for hay this fall. But Kendall Guither, a Walnut, IL, alfalfa grower, isn’t overly concerned.

“The last week of September and first several weeks of October are typically slow anyway,” says Guither, who puts up alfalfa baleage in 3 x 3 x 5.5’ bales on 425 acres. He markets to dairy farms – cows and goats – in northern Illinois, southern Wisconsin and central and eastern Ohio.

A variety of factors have dairy producers holding back at this time, he believes. “A lot of them had to buy hay last year to keep going, and the milk price wasn’t all that favorable. So they didn’t have the money to spend this summer. It was tough to build up any kind of inventory.

“Now, they’re wrapping up with the corn silage and grain harvests. They’re taking a look at what they have for feed off of their own farms and are trying to get a feel for where corn and bean prices are headed. In a few weeks, I expect (hay) buying will pick up again.”

The price for supreme-quality hay in Guither’s trade area is currently steady, bringing $260-280/ton at the farm gate. “There wasn’t much of it made this year to meet the demand that’s out there,” he says.

Supplies of premium hay in the region are also tight. The current price is in the $230-260/ton range.

He looks at prices to remain “mostly firm” through the coming months. “Because of the overall supply situation, I don’t see much downside. A lot will depend on corn silage yields and whether people were able to get it put up on time. There could be an upside (for hay prices) if milk prices go up a little and dairy farmers have a little more money to spend.”

Guither can be contacted at 815-878-5175 or kguither@cin.net.

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