Oklahoma’s early season growing conditions are the polar opposite of last year’s.

Alfalfa first cuttings have been disappointing at best due to a lack of rainfall throughout the state, says Jack Carson, reporter with the USDA-Oklahoma Department of Agriculture Market News.

“We have excellent quality hay but not much of it,” he adds. “Right now, we're kind of waiting on things to develop. It’s been kind of a slow start.”

First-cutting yields have been about 40-50% of average, Carson notes. For example, one producer near Enid harvested 300 acres and made just 15 bales of hay.

“That's not much hay. There were some areas in south-central Oklahoma that made yields that were certainly below average, but they weren’t that bad. And we had some irrigated alfalfa that was pretty close to normal for yield.”

Last year at this time, an abundance of late-spring and early summer moisture aided growth but kept producers from putting up hay.

As a result, alfalfa tended to be overly mature and quality was typically rated fair to good, Carson recalls.

“We didn't have that much of the true premium- and supreme-quality dairy hay.”

An adequate supply of mediocre alfalfa, coupled with depressed milk prices, meant lower hay prices for sellers in 2013, Carson adds.

This year, early hay supplies are down and milk prices are up, resulting in growing demand among dairy producers. But nobody is in too much of a panic yet.

“The dairies are still pretty reluctant to get too carried away on the delivery price,” Carson says. “There are some hay growers who are asking for higher prices, but they are not getting those markets yet.”

Second cutting

Alfalfa second cutting is under way in parts of Oklahoma, and recent rains have helped some regions of the state, Carson says.

“We’ve had some rainfall up in northern Oklahoma, but we're still way behind.” Some producers had second cuttings rained on last week.

Typically, Oklahoma hay farmers can expect four cuttings of alfalfa in a season. If they’re lucky, they get five.

“If it doesn’t rain more, this year it’s probably going to be three,” he says. “Supplies of all hay are going to be tight, I believe.”

According to Carson's May 29 hay market report, large square bales of supreme-quality alfalfa out of the field in central Oklahoma run from $250 to $260/ton. Premium-quality large squares range from $235 to $250/ton.

In eastern Oklahoma, large squares of premium-quality new-crop alfalfa are selling for $240-250/ton; small squares, $10-12/bale.

In the western part of the state, large square bales of premium-quality alfalfa run between $235 and $250/ton, with large round bales bringing $225-$230/ton.

The report also indicated that a good deal of wheat hay was baled throughout Oklahoma with variable quality and below-average yield. Demand for wheat hay has been strong, he says, with prices between $100 and $125/ton for good quality, depending on the region.

Grass hay demand increased as rains lagged, he adds. Old-crop bermudagrass is priced between $30 and $45 for 4 x 5’ bales in the central part of the state. Good-quality, new-crop mixed-grass hay, in 4 x 5’ bales, is selling for $35-40 in eastern Oklahoma.

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