Hay prices in southern Montana have stayed steady despite ample supplies there, reports Joliet grower Howard “Howdy” Hildebrand.

Good-quality round bales of irrigated grass hay currently average $125-130/ton in his area, while lower-quality dryland-grass round bales sell in the $100-110/ton range, he says.

In mid-June, Hildebrand sold large square bales of premium-quality grass hay to Texas for $165/ton, while rained-on hay sold for $135/ton. Prices for premium-quality, grass-hay large squares have softened slightly since then, running in the $130-140/ton range, he estimates.

Prices should remain steady or rise slightly in the months ahead due to continued demand from Oregon and California customers, says Hildebrand, who manages 280 irrigated alfalfa acres and 900 irrigated and dryland grass hay acres, “I don’t see prices tapering off any.”

For the first time in several years, growers in southern and eastern Montana have experienced ideal growing conditions, he reports. Growers in northern Montana haven’t fared quite as well, and central Montana is experiencing a hay shortage.

“We needed this,” he says of his area’s favorable growing season. “We haven’t had a dryland crop like this in years. There’s a lot of dryland hay around here, and it is very exceptional.”

Statewide, good-quality grass hay averages $130-140/ton, while alfalfa sells in the $170-200/ton range, depending on the type of bale, reports Emily Glunk, forage specialist with Montana State University Extension. That’s about $6/ton more than last August’s Montana prices, but lower than typical late-summer prices.

“Some producers were late getting into the fields for first cutting,” she notes. “So you have a lot of pretty mature hay – both alfalfa and grass. That’s causing some lower prices than what we typically may see.”

Glunk doesn’t expect prices to rise too quickly and believes demand from California has waned. However, the need for alfalfa hay from Idaho and Washington customers will help strengthen its prices, she adds.

Demand for hay across northern Montana is weak right now, she says, and prices have dropped. “Right now, most animals are out on pasture, so producers are not having to feed a lot of hay. We might see some difference in prices when it comes to the fall and people start feeding hay.”

Many growers will be able to start putting up their second cuttings on irrigated fields in the next week or two in some areas of the state, Glunk says. She expects the quality to be better and prices to slowly tick upward.

The dryland grass in the Bozeman area is a little behind, however. “We haven’t had a lot of rain. Unfortunately, it’s probably going to be a bit before we can get a second cutting off of it.”

Contact Hildebrand at 406-860-8520 or 406-962-9000; Glunk at emily.glunk@montana.edu or 406-994-5688.