It’s been a roller-coaster ride for hay prices across the board this winter at the twice-monthly Shell Rock Hay Auction in Shell Rock, IA.

“Overall, the supply has been strong for the last four or five months, and that’s kept the market a little soft,” says auctioneer Curt Lubben. He and partner Brad White launched the auction in 2008.

For grass hay in 50-lb small square bales, buyers are paying $2.80-4/bale. Small squares of alfalfa-grass hay are selling for $4-6/bale, on average, with some third and fourth cuttings going for as much as $7.50/bale. Straight alfalfa small squares are bringing $4-5.50/bale.

“The overall price trend seems to be down a bit,” says Lubben. “But from one sale to the next, it’s not unusual to see a price swing $1 to $1.50/bale.”

There has been the same kind of volatility between sales in large square bale prices in recent months. Currently, grass hay in those large packages is selling for $120-165/ton, mixed hay for $180-220/ton and alfalfa for $160-210/ton. “We’ve seen the price swing by as much as $20-30/ton from sale to sale all winter long,” he says.

Large round bale prices have been more consistent, with grass hay selling for $80-120/ton depending on quality. The better-mixed hay is bringing $130-160/ton, while alfalfa has been selling for around $160/ton.

Lubben looks for prices to hold steady over the next couple of months. “We’ve had a long and hard winter, and it’s not over yet. Sellers are starting to run out of hay. On the other hand, many buyers are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. They’re only buying what they have to have until they can get their animals out on pasture.”

Sales at Shell Rock Hay Auction are held on the second and fourth Saturdays of the month year round. Sales begin at 1 p.m.

For more information, contact Lubben at 319-404-2901 or shellrockhayauction@yahoo.com.