A shortage of hay in parts of the U.S. has helped bring bidders from throughout the country to an online and video hay auction held in Torrington, WY. Valley Video Hay Markets is jointly run by Torrington Livestock Markets and Barry McRea, owner of Valley Video Hay Auctions. Buyer confidence has grown steadily in the three years since the virtual auction began, McRea says. "Almost all of our customers come back -- buyers and sellers. One of the best things this auction has done is to make true price discovery available to both the buyer and the seller."

You won't see hay at the actual auction site, although buyers can sit in the Torrington arena to watch sales on a video screen. Other buyers can participate from around the country via the Internet from their own computers. Customers with unreliable Internet connections can set up phone bidders at the auction site and watch online. "We have sold around 46,000 tons since June, with an average of between 4,000 to 5,000 tons per sale," McRea explains. "Although most of the hay is sold within a 100-mile radius of Torrington, this year about 40% of our hay has been going to Texas and New Mexico. The shortage of quality hay has helped bring in buyers from the eastern U.S., too."

Most sellers are from around Torrington. Consignments are accepted up to one week before each sale. McRea visits each farm beforehand, taking pictures and samples of the hay. University of Nebraska labs test the hay and results are available for each lot. The Valley Video Web site (below) displays that information before each auction.

Hay is sold in semi-load lots and leaves farms only after it is sold. Bidders put 20% of the purchase price down and then pay for the actual weight of the loads after they're picked up. Sellers are supposed to get hay loaded within 30 days of the sale.

"Quality hay always sells," states McRea. "If you put it up properly, you will be able to sell your hay for a good price anywhere in the country. The lower-quality product is limited where it can go." Drought conditions have created a market for feeder hay going into Tennessee this year, he adds.

The next Valley Video hay sale will be Dec. 11 at 2 p.m. Mountain Time. Auctions are held every three weeks from June until high-demand winter months. Learn more at www.videohayauctions.com/. Call McRea at 888-935-3633, or Valley Video Hay Auctions at 308-235-5386.