A promising start for new-crop hay will likely take an edge off prices in parts of Virginia in the coming weeks, says Tom Weaver, owner of the Rushville Hay Auction in Harrisonburg. “We had some good spring rains, and it looks like we should have a good growing season.”

Dwindling supplies have pushed up prices across the board in the last month or so. Large square bales of old-crop, premium alfalfa sold for $350/ton; round bales brought “a little less.” A year ago, prices ranged around $185 to $190/ton.

Large squares of grass hay brought $210/ton; large rounds went for $165-175/ton. “That’s almost double what they were last year at this time,” says Weaver.

The price run-up is mostly due to a long and cold winter, with more snow than normal. “We’re just about out of old-crop hay. I had people telling me a few months ago that they’d be bringing in hay to sell at about this time. But some of those same people have been coming to the last couple of auctions as buyers. Cattle had to eat a lot of hay this year to keep warm.“

A recent stretch of rainy weather is challenging area growers to get first crop off the field in a timely fashion. “We should have good yields. And if we get a break in the weather, the quality should be pretty good, too.”

In turn, Weaver expects prices to drop, maybe sharply, in the months ahead. “It all depends on what the weather does, of course. But, for now anyway, it looks like there’s going to be plenty of hay around.”

Rushville Hay Auction sales are held at 10 a.m. on the first, third and fifth Wednesdays of the month year-round. For more information, contact Weaver at 540-435-0020.