Even with a heavy dose of snow, ice and freezing temperatures early in the new year, the hay trade in Oklahoma remains extremely sluggish. That’s the observation of Jack Carson, market reporter for the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry (ODAFF) in Oklahoma City.

“We traditionally see activity pick up after the first of the year, and we anticipated that would be the case this year. So far, though, it hasn’t happened.”

The lack of activity, he says, is somewhat puzzling given reports that beef producers in many parts of the state stepped up supplemental hay feeding during the harsh weather. “I’ve talked to a fair number of cattlemen who told me they’ve been feeding a tremendous amount of hay,” he says. “One reported that he’s fed more hay in the past six weeks than he fed all last winter. But none of it has translated into sales. Most of the beef guys here appear to have enough hay on hand to fully cover their needs.”

The recent trade in grass hay has been in small lots moving locally. Some of those sales have been to producers who lost hay to wildfires in the central and western regions of the state over the past few weeks. Good bermudagrass and mixed-grass hay, in 4 x 5’ round bales, is selling for around $25-45/bale in most parts of the state.

The trade in dairy-quality alfalfa hay has been even more slow-paced. “Any movement we’re seeing right now is probably of hay that was already under contract,” says Carson.

He puts the going price for premium-supreme alfalfa at around $195-210/ton, loaded on the truck at the edge of the field. A year ago, that kind of hay brought $50-75/ton more.

“It’s hard to explain exactly what’s going on.” Dairies in New Mexico, Texas and Oklahoma have been the traditional markets for the state’s top-end alfalfa, he notes.

“Part of it might be that our supplies have been extremely tight over the past three years. So maybe dairy producers have been buying out of other areas. Or it could be that they’ve found other, cheaper sources of protein to plug into their rations. Either way, the interest is nil right now.”

To contact Carson, call 405-522-3752 or email jack.carson@ag.ok.gov.

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