Midwestern producers looking for dairy-quality hay from states farther west could be pleasantly surprised at how much is available, says Wisconsin broker Greg Lambert. Prices are likely to be favorable as well.

“There’s a lot more hay sitting out there than we would normally see at this time of year,” says Lambert. Along with a brokerage business called American Hay Company, he and his wife, Drenda, operate American Hay Transport.

As of early last week, he reports having access to 250 loads of dairy-quality hay (150-255 RFV), mostly out of Wyoming, Colorado, Nebraska, Kansas and North and South Dakota. “We’ve definitely had a lot more hay offered to us this year than we have buyers to take it,” he says.

A variety of factors are at work. Dairy-cow numbers in New Mexico and Texas dwindled the last three years or so as more dairies exited the business under financial strain. “Traditionally, they’ve been big buyers of the alfalfa produced in the (western) region,” says Lambert. “Now, the alfalfa that would have been going to those states is available.”

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It also helps that Midwestern dairy producers, fearing a hay shortage after that region’s alfalfa stands suffered winterkill, planted or bought alternative forages for use in rations. “It might not have been exactly what they wanted, but they do have something to feed. So they’re not purchasing as much dry dairy hay.”

As a result, prices for dairy-quality hay have backed off significantly in recent months. Lambert says he paid $235/ton at the stack this past growing season for first-cutting alfalfa with an RFV of 165. Earlier this month, however, he was able to buy a load of hay out of the same area for an average price of $175/ton at the stack. The load’s RFV values ranged from 145 to 182.

Prices might fall further, he believes. “Often, people who grow other crops, along with hay, don’t start moving their hay to market until after the first of the year. Once that hay is available, prices could come down a little bit more. Then again, we still have a lot of winter and spring to get through. Either way, this is definitely a year of adjustment for growers.”

To contact Lambert, call 920-904-3655 or email hillcrestalfalfa@gmail.com.

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