Hay prices in Wyoming and western Nebraska have remained “remarkably steady” over the last six months, reports Barry McRae, owner-manager of Valley Video Hay Markets and HayTime Auctions in Torrington, WY.

Since July, nearly all hay sold on the online auction has been bringing $250-260/ton. “It doesn’t matter if the relative feed value is 130 or 230,” says McRae. “I’ve never seen more consistent prices over such a long period.” The volume of hay moving through the auction in recent months has also been steady at around 3,000 tons per sale.

A year ago, McRae notes, high-end dairy hay was bringing $280/ton, with one instance of $300/ton in February. Feeder hay was bringing $170-200/ton. A severe drought in the region served by McRae’s auctions, mostly within a 150-mile radius of Torrington, explains the narrow price range this year.

“Production throughout most of our area was off by at least 20%,” he says. “To ensure they have the supply they need, ranchers and feedlots have been willing to pay the kinds of prices dairies ordinarily pay.”

McRae is convinced the market has reached a top. “Buyer interest is slowing down. Dairy producers have built up their inventories. And, with the dairy economy the way it is, I don’t think dairy hay prices can go up. Ranchers are concerned about moisture levels. If we don’t see much in the way of improvement, a lot of them will liquidate rather than buy more high-priced hay.”

Valley Video’s next online hay auction will begin at 6 a.m. (Mountain Time) on Jan. 30 and lot bidding will start to close at 2 p.m. on Jan. 31, at two-minute intervals with five-minute extensions on active lots. The bidding will be conducted at www.maddenauctions.com. Descriptions of hay lots offered will be listed on the Valley Video website starting Jan. 28.

To contact McRae, call 888-935-3633 or email b.mcrea@charter.net.