Kevin Swanke won’t be disappointed if the coming season’s hay business turns out to be a lot like last year’s. “We had a pretty good year overall,” says Swanke, owner of Diamond S Ranch near Rhame, ND. “We had good crops and a good market for our hay.”

In a typical year, Swanke puts up alfalfa and grass hay on 5,000-6,000 acres of owned and leased ground. He makes round and 3 x 4 x 8’ square bales. Dairies in Iowa and Wisconsin have traditionally been his biggest market for alfalfa. In the past two years, though, more and more of his hay has been moving in the direction of Texas and New Mexico. “With the drought, demand has really been high from that part of the country,” says Swanke, who also sells to beef producers and horse owners. “Last fall, we were getting four or five phone calls a day from people looking for hay. That kept up into December.”

Dairy-quality hay in his area has been selling for $150-180/ton at the stack. A year ago, the price was closer to $120/ton. “Even the lower-quality hay is worth quite a bit more than normal,” he says.

Unlike last year, not much hay ground in the region will be converted to wheat and corn production this year, Swanke believes. “With the hay market as strong as it is, the people who already have their land in hay will likely leave it in hay. Weather is our biggest concern here. We’ve had a pretty dry winter and sometimes that leads to a dry summer. Time will tell.”

To contact Swanke, call 701-279-5890 or email dimonds@ndsupernet.com.