Water availability remains a major concern for alfalfa hay growers in most regions of New Mexico, reports Justin Boswell, executive director of the New Mexico Hay Association.

“They’ve had a little moisture in the northwestern corner of the state. But just about everywhere else, it was dry heading into the winter and has stayed that way since,” he says.

Many growers in the Pecos Valley exceeded their water allotments last year, Boswell notes. “Over the next four years, they’ll have to keep a close eye on their consumption.”

Surface-water irrigators in the Rio Grande Valley are going to have little, if any, in the way of allotments. “They’ll be heavily dependent on ground water again this year.”

Normally, he says, alfalfa fields in many parts of the state would “have a little green showing” at this time of year even though plants have not broken dormancy. “But this year, there are a lot of fields that don’t look in real good shape. It’s kind of ugly at this point.”

Supplies of dairy-quality alfalfa in large squares remain extremely short in many areas. “There’s not a lot of alfalfa hay being traded locally,” says Boswell. “The real good-quality hay is hard to find. What is moving around here is mostly coming in from other states.”

Finding small, two-tie square bales is also difficult. Current prices in southeastern New Mexico are around $300/ton f.o.b. for premium hay and $250 for good hay. A year ago, small squares were selling for around the same price.

Even with the water shortage, Boswell expects alfalfa acreage in the state to remain stable in 2013. “Right now, we’re looking for prices to stay on the strong side mostly because there’s not much of a source of good feed around. If things stay that way, most growers will probably pursue full production this year.”

To contact Boswell, call 575-840-9908 or email juboswel@yahoo.com.