Late-April freezes, coupled with plentiful moisture and severe storms in May, have delayed first-crop alfalfa harvest in parts of central Oklahoma. Even so, reported in-the-field prices for new-crop, dairy-quality alfalfa hay have been in the $200-235/ton range. Before new-crop harvest, prices ranged at $240-260/ton, with most selling at $250/ton.

The price drop-off corresponds to slackened demand. “A lot of existing dairies in the state have gone out of business and beef-cow numbers are way down. The feeling early on is that there’s going to be more hay available this year,” notes Jack Carson, market report for Oklahoma Department of Agriculture-USDA Market News in Oklahoma City.

Carryover hay stocks may also be playing a role.  As of May 1, USDA was reporting that stocks on Oklahoma farms and ranches totaled 700,000 tons.

“That’s still low, but it’s much better than it was last year when our stocks coming out of the winter were around 500,000 tons. The general feeling is that the supply situation this year isn’t as critical. Whether that’s still the case a few months from now will depend mostly on what kind of weather we have.”

May rains marked a major turnaround from last year’s drought conditions in the state, he says. In some areas, rainfalls of 1-5” were common throughout the month. “We couldn’t buy a rain for so long, and now they’ve been coming in bunches.”

In some isolated areas, debris from mid-month tornados also kept growers from harvest. A major concern now is that much of the region’s alfalfa crop will be over-mature. “Some growers could lose an entire cutting,” says Carson.

For more information, contact Carson at 405-522-3752 or jack.carson@ag.ok.gov.

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