Hard times in the dairy business have put strong downward pressure on alfalfa hay prices in northwestern Oklahoma, reports hay dealer and grower Brandon Drinnon.

“Usually, there’s a lot of buying and selling activity going on at this time,” says the owner of Drinnon Hay, Taloga. “But this year movement has been very slow. The dairies just don’t have any money. They only want all they can pay for, and that isn’t a lot right now.”

Currently, first-cutting dairy-quality alfalfa in the region is bringing $175/ton in the field and $200-250/ton delivered to dairies in New Mexico. That’s about $100/ton less than reported a year ago. “This is about the time when prices started going up last year because of the drought,” he notes. “It got as high as $320/ton in the field.”

While this year’s first-crop yields were “about average” throughout the area, growers are concerned that recent dry weather could crimp overall production for the rest of the growing season. “We’re about halfway through second crop now, and yields are down a bit from normal. If we don’t get much more rain, that alfalfa isn’t going to pop back out. There may not be a third crop for some dryland growers.”

Even so, he doesn’t expect prices to climb as rapidly or as far as they did in 2011. “Until things get turned around in the dairy business, I just don’t see alfalfa prices going much higher.”

Contact Drinnon at 580-334-8960 or drinnonhay@hotmail.com.