Lack of rain again hurting hay

Staff writer

Brad Wiens’ alfalfa crop was doing well, but a lack of rain in the last couple of weeks could change that, evidenced by growing cracks in the soil.

“It started out as a real good year growing hay. We had a lot of spring rains, and that helps the hay to really grow,” he said. “Now it’s kind of turned. We haven’t had rain for a while, so the hay’s kind of quit growing.”

Wiens feeds very little of his hay, but ships much of it to dairies in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Kentucky, and Texas.

“What I’m baling right now is really good quality. It only got 12 to 18 inches tall,” Wiens said. “It makes really soft hay, and the leaves are really well attached. It makes much more desirable hay for the cattle.”

Rickey Roberts, extension agent for Marion County, said the county’s brome and alfalfa harvest improved in 2013, from a tonnage standpoint.

If the weather stays the way it has been, though, there may not be much more hay to bale.

“As dry as it is now, I don’t think we’ll get another cutting of this hay until it rains again,” Roberts said. “As we’re sitting today, I still think we have more hay than we had a year ago. That can change though.”

Roberts said harvesters usually get one cut of brome, and three to four cuts of alfalfa per year.

Pricing for hay varies by the kind of bale it is in, as well as the quality. Wiens said a ton of alfalfa can go for $200.

Roberts said a large round bale of brome hay can go from $100 to $130, and prairie hay, like bluestem, could go between $100 and $110.

“It may be a little early to talk about price of hay, because if we don’t get any more rain over a large part of the country, then hay supplies get really tight again,” Roberts said. “Then that hay price could shoot up in a hurry.”

Roberts said the variability of hay prices ultimately depends on how much rain the hay receives.

“I think that the alfalfa hay needs rain, and it needs it in a bad way,” he said.

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