As limited supplies keep strong pressure on top-end alfalfa-hay prices, dairy producers in the Upper Midwest are looking closer at medium- to average-quality alfalfa.

That’s according to grower-dealer Leslie Zimmerman, of Zimmerman’s Quality Hay, LLC in Memphis, MO. He puts up 200 acres of alfalfa and mixed-grass hay and markets hay for growers in Colorado, Kansas, South Dakota and Wyoming. Beef feedlots, horse owners and dairies, primarily in the Upper Midwest, are his target markets.

“There’s a lot of hay with a relative feed value (RFV) of 130-150 all the way from Kansas to the East Coast. It makes very good TMR hay, and it’s priced considerably less than that smoking-hot stuff, which is a lot harder to come by right now,” says Zimmerman.

In his primary trade area, alfalfa with 170 RFV or higher is bringing $285-325/ton delivered to the farm. “The price really hasn’t backed off that much from a year ago,” he says.

For alfalfa in the 130- to 150-RFV range, the going delivered price is closer to $200-250/ton, depending on where it’s headed. “It’s probably off $30-40/ton from last year, and that’s all because of the supply.”

Prices for second and third cuttings of grass hay have also remained strong, selling for $200-250/ton delivered in Zimmerman’s trade area. “Right now, nobody wants first cutting. There are piles of it around.”

Midwestern hay prices, he believes, have likely already peaked for the season – even though a harsh winter has led to a substantial increase in hay feeding throughout the region.

“There’s a lot of hay still sitting out there in barns, especially in Kansas, South Dakota and northwestern Iowa,” he says. “People have been hanging onto it thinking prices could go up some. But I think they might be in for a surprise.”

Better milk prices could prop up high-quality alfalfa prices, but only slightly, he adds. “After five to seven very tough years, the dairy guys are ready to make some money. Before they’ll pay top dollar for the high-end hay, they’ll look for a good buy on the average-quality hay and find ways to work distiller’s grains, corn gluten or some other byproduct feed into their rations.”

Contact Zimmerman at 660-216-0938 or zimmy@nemr.net.

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