Demand for high-quality hay in wintry weather as the new year began put upside pressure on prices in northern Indiana, reports grower Dennis Smeltzer of Middlebury.

In recent weeks, small square bales of alfalfa and alfalfa-grass hay have brought $250-300/ton at local auctions. “It’s backed off a little bit from where it was last year, but not all that much,” says Smeltzer.

“We have a foot and a half of snow on the ground in some places, and it’s been cold. As a result, livestock producers have really been burning through the hay. They want to keep their animals full.”

Smeltzer and his wife, Jenny, grow alfalfa and alfalfa-grass hay on 150 acres. Along with small square bales, they put up 4 x 4’ dry and high-moisture wrapped round bales. Amish dairy producers and horse owners are their target markets. Small squares are put up on an “order-only” basis, and most of their round bales are stored for fall and winter sales. Most of their 2013 production is spoken for.

Weather and insect problems early in the growing season helped keep local supplies tight heading into the winter, says Smeltzer. “We started out with weevils in late April and early May. Anybody who didn’t get their crop sprayed got hammered on production. Then on first crop, we had trouble putting up quality hay. It was hard to get three days in a row where we didn’t have rain.”

Prices are likely to stay steady over the next couple of months, he says. “There might be enough hay around to get everyone through the winter, but I can’t see the market softening a whole lot. There just isn’t enough of the good-quality hay out there.”

To contact Smeltzer, call 574-825-2376 or email dsjs4221972@earthlink.net.

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