A season-long battle with wet weather crimped hay quality for many growers in northeastern Oregon during 2013. But Mark Butterfield, who grows timothy and alfalfa hay on 650 acres near Joseph, says higher yields more than make up for it.

Early summer rains delayed Butterfield’s first timothy cutting by five days, and he was about a week late starting first-crop alfalfa. The past two weeks, he again waited out the weather to start second-cut timothy and third-cut alfalfa. “Ordinarily, we’d be wrapping up for the year right about now.”

But his yields are likely to be substantially higher this year compared to normal. “We should end up getting 6 tons/acre on our alfalfa and about the same on our timothy. For both crops, that’s a ton more than we ordinarily get. Quality is off some, but the increased tonnage should more than make up for that.”

Butterfield, president of the Wallowa County Hay Growers Association, markets 3 x 4 x 8’ hay bales to export buyers, dairies and beef feedlots. “Demand is strong right now, and the prices are pretty good across the board.”

Currently, his first-crop timothy is bringing $245-260/ton at the farm. Last year, his top price was $245. “We were some of the last people to get going (on first crop), but we hit the right weather window. The weather damage in other parts of the region helped out with the price.”

He’s still waiting to price his alfalfa, but figures his test and top-quality export hay should bring at least $200/ton. Feeder hay will fetch above $175/ton. “Overall, I’d say it’s shaping up as a pretty good year.”

Butterfield can be reached at mbutter@eoni.com.

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