Prices for small square bales of alfalfa and alfalfa-orchardgrass hay have been picking up steam in recent weeks at Mike and Julie Hamilton’s Madison County Ag Auction near Alton, IL.

Their hay and straw auctions are held Saturdays from December through the first week in April. During the first three weeks of December, Mike Hamilton reports, prices were flat, with small squares bringing $5.50-6/bale. But upward price momentum started to build at the end of the month and, in recent weeks, the going price has been closer to $7-8.50/bale.

Volume has been picking up as well. At the Jan. 19 sale, 3,500 small squares sold. “Typically, we’ll sell around 1,500-2,000 bales,” notes Hamilton.

Round-bale prices have also been strong in recent weeks. Grass hay in 4 x 5’ rounds weighing 750-800 lbs has been bringing $60-90/bale; alfalfa rounds have been selling for $85-110/bale. “Across the board, the round-bale prices are $20-30/bale higher than they were a year ago,” Hamilton says.

The auction is getting two to three phone calls a week from Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi inquiring about selling Coastal bermudagrass round bales.

“Compared to our area, they had a pretty good growing season last year. And there seems to be a pretty good supply in that part of the country. But none of that hay has showed up here yet. It’s pretty hard to truck it that far and make it work.”

Prices on 3 x 3 x 8’ alfalfa bales weighing around 800 lbs have been in the $90-125/bale range with an occasional load selling for as much as $150/bale. “That’s about $10-20/bale cheaper than it was selling for a year ago. I don’t see that changing much until the situation improves for the dairy guys. They’ve really been struggling financially.”

Getting a handle on where prices in general might be headed is tougher, says Hamilton. “I’ve been at this for 18 years, and I can’t remember a time when it’s been this difficult to get a good feel for the availability of hay. Based on the volume we’ve been seeing, I think there may be more hay out there than people were thinking just a few weeks ago. We’ll know more as we head through the winter, I guess.”

Madison County Ag Auction sales begin at 11 a.m. For more information, call 618-410-4293 or email hamilton6822@sbcglobal.net.