Growing Quality Hay to Meet Market Demand

Growing Quality Hay to Meet Market Demand

June 20, 2008

The hay situation in Nebraska and throughout the country offers some strong profit opportunities as well as some pitfalls for alfalfa growers.

With expectations of $170 dairy hay and $50 roughage hay this winter, which one would you rather be selling? Why not produce dairy quality hay?
Dairy hay markets look very strong. Storms wiped out dairy hay production areas throughout the Midwest during the first cutting. In California, our country's top dairy state, drought is sharply reducing hay yields. Combine this potential shortage of dairy quality hay with high prices for other dairy feedstuffs, good milk prices, and strong demand for hay that produces lots of milk and you get excellent prospects for high dairy hay prices.

The market forecast for grinding hay and stock cow hay is a bit murkier. Increased use of alternative feeds in feedlots and by cow-calf producers is affecting the market for lsome hays. Economical corn byproducts have enabled feedlots to cut their alfalfa use in half and byproducts are being used more and more by cow-calf operations as a good winter supplement for added energy and protein. Also, the supply of roughages for dry cows, including corn stalks, also appears to be increasing. Given these influences, prices for this kind of hay may have downward price pressure.

If you plan to sell hay, do all you can to make dairy hay. Cut early. Make square bales even if you must hire it done. And store under cover.

It wouldn't surprise me to hear of $170 dairy hay and $50 roughage hay this winter. Which one would you rather be selling?

Bruce Anderson
Extension Forage Specialist