The strong demand for quality alfalfa hay by forage-short Upper Midwestern dairy producers has been good for sales at Don’s Hay Service in Brush, CO.

“We started getting calls from that part of the country in early March,” says owner Don Leonard. “But it’s really picked up in the last couple of weeks. At this point, it doesn’t look like a lot of hay is going to be put up early in that area, and they’ve had some winterkill problems as well. Right now, we’re shipping four or five loads a week. We could be sending more if we could find the trucks.”

On price, Leonard reports the Midwestern dairies he’s dealing with have been paying $280-290/ton f.o.b. for supreme/premium alfalfa. “With trucking, you can add around $50-55/ton,” says Leonard, who grows alfalfa on 450 irrigated acres and custom harvests another 1,500 hay acres.

Leonard has hay left to sell because of a drop off in demand locally through the winter. “The dairies here say they can’t afford to pay that kind of price and still stay in business. We had a pretty good inventory when the calls started coming in.”

For the season ahead, water availability is a major concern for growers in Leonard’s area. “The snowpack is pretty decent, and we’ve been getting some rain this spring. But the Platte River, where we get all of our water from, is over-allocated. We won’t have all the water we want this year.”

A cool spring has this year’s crop off to a slow start. Typically, Leonard’s alfalfa at this time of year is about a foot tall. “But, right now, it’s only 6” high,” he says. “We usually think about staring in on first cutting around May 15. This year, we could be well into June before we get going.”

To contact Leonard, call 970-380-2044 or email donshay@kci.net.

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