Kansas hay prices remain in a holding pattern, despite extremely dry weather that hampered 2012 hay production, reports John Waechter of Waechter Grain and Hay in Emporia.

“There’s less hay around now than there was a year ago,” he says. “But we really haven’t seen the kind of wild prices that we saw then.”

Waechter produces alfalfa hay on 700 acres and native grass hay on “several thousand.” Medium and large square bales of alfalfa are marketed to dairies from Kansas eastward. Native grass hay, in small and large squares, goes to feedlots, sale barns, horse owners and other outlets.

He only took two cuttings on most of his alfalfa acres this year; in a typical year, he harvests four. Native grass production was also about half of normal. He has just a small inventory of hay left for sale.

“It was dry, dry, dry, and it’s still dry now.”

Dairy-quality alfalfa hay in the region is bringing $250-300/ton at the farm, up slightly from year-ago prices, Waechter reports. Native grass hay is $150-175/ton for small square bales and $150/ton for large squares. “It’s very hard to come by. But people aren’t buying until they absolutely have to.”

Weather will play a key role in what happens to prices in the months ahead, he adds. “If we get a tough winter, look out.”

Yet the alfalfa market could be close to a top, he predicts. “If you’re paying $300/ton and have to put freight on top of that to get it somewhere, you’re looking at some pretty expensive hay. At some point, you’re going to start looking at other roughages like cornstalks rather than feeding hay.”

To contact Waechter, call 620-342-1080 or email Johnw@waechterhay.com.