Forage crops in Pennsylvania have been coming on strong in recent weeks. “We’ve been getting some periodic rains, and the temperatures have cooled off nicely,” says Marvin Hall, forage specialist with Penn State University Extension. “The forages are growing like crazy right now.”

Yields on this year’s first three cuttings lagged significantly compared to what’s been normal in most parts of the state. After getting off to an early start, first crop was set back slightly by frost. Second crop was significantly reduced. A prolonged midsummer hot and dry spell wiped out the third crop.

Even with the recent weather improvement, hay supplies are likely to be tight heading into the winter feeding season. “We’re still going to be short of hay, but our situation has improved quite a bit,” says Hall. “If we get a long fall, we’ll be able to make up a lot of ground. Things aren’t anywhere near as dire as I was thinking they might be just a few weeks ago.”

Prices have tracked steadily upward throughout the summer. Just prior to the start of the growing season, alfalfa packaged mostly in small square bales was selling in the $200-250/ton range. Currently, the price is well over $300/ton, says Hall. High-quality alfalfa-grass hay, favored by many horse owners, is approaching $400/ton.

“It’s a little early for prices to be moving up this far. Last year we had a pretty dry year, too. But we didn’t see these kinds of prices until October or November.”

With continued favorable weather in the next few weeks, Hall believes prices could level off. “But I don’t see them dropping any. We didn’t have any surplus coming out of the winter. And with the widespread drought in other parts of the country, there really isn’t any place to look for a supply.”

To contact Hall, call 814-863-1019 or email mhh2@psu.edu.