High-quality dairy hay appears to have been in short supply in the Upper Midwest during January, according to organizers and observers of quality-tested hay auctions in Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Fifty to 80 buyers attended each of the Dodge Council Forage Council (DCFC) sales in Beaver Dam during January, says Matt Hanson, University of Wisconsin Extension crops and soils agent. “Things are tight in the local area. Much of the hay around here was sold off the field this past year, so very little was put up into storage for a later sale.”

The auction picked up several new sellers in January, Hanson adds. “Many were from some distance away because of the local shortage. This year, we’re also seeing a greater mix of alfalfa, grasses, etc. Last year, it was pretty much alfalfa only.”

Auction prices dropped a little at the second sale in January, but were still over a dollar per relative feed value (RFV) point, he says.

Buyer interest was also relatively strong at the Sheboygan County Forage Council auction in January, says Mike Ballweg, Hanson’s counterpart in that county. “But only three lots of very low-quality hay were offered,” he says. “There were no buyers willing to pay the minimum seller price. Local supplies of high-quality hay are very short.”

In central Minnesota, prices at the twice-monthly tested auction in Sauk Centre have been relatively strong. That's despite tough weather that crimped attendance and “in light of the fact that milk prices have hardly moved to a break-even point,” says Dan Martens, county extension educator for Benton, Morrison and Stearns counties.

“We had a lot of nice weather for putting up good-quality hay,” says Martens. “But dry spring weather may have limited first-crop yields in some parts of the state and very wet weather was an issue in other areas.”

At the Jan. 7 sale in Sauk Centre, four loads of medium square alfalfa with RFV in the 176-200 range brought an average of $150/ton. The highest selling price at the sale was $170/ton – for a load of fourth-cutting alfalfa with an RFV of 200 and also for a second-cutting load with an RFV of 158.

The remaining schedule for the auctions:
Dodge County, WI – First and third Tuesdays of each month through the first week of April, Beaver Dam, WI – Visit the DCFC Web site.
Sheboygan County, WI – Second Wednesday of each month through April, Chissy’s Pub & Grill, Waldo. Call 920-459-5904.
Sauk Centre, MN – First and third Thursdays of each month through the first week in May, Truckers Inn. Visit the Mid-American Auction Web site.