Region’s hay crop smaller this yearThe wet spring of 2011 produced a big hay crop, with much drier conditions this spring leading to a smaller crop.
By: JONATHAN KNUTSON, Forum Communications Co.
The downside to a bumper hay crop is that the next year’s crop probably won’t measure up.
That seems to be the case this summer across much of the Upper Midwest. The wet spring of 2011 produced a big hay crop, with much drier conditions this spring leading to a smaller crop.
“Last year, we just had an excellent hay crop. This year, it’s not as good,” says Dave Hinneland, a Circle, Mont., sheep producer and past president of the Montana Wool Growers Association.
But he and many other area producers who use hay say they aren’t particularly worried about potential shortages in the winter of 2012 and ’13. The bumper crop of 2011 was followed by an exceptionally mild winter in 2011 and ’12, which means many producers still have plenty of unused hay from a year ago. That hay provides many producers with a safety net going into next winter.
However, while there was pretty good carryover, some producers don’t have that safety net, says Paul McGill, owner and manager of Rock Valley Hay Auction. Rock Valley is in northwest Iowa.
The company buys hay from South Dakota, Minnesota and North Dakota. It sells primarily within 50 miles of Rock Valley, but has customers across the country, McGill says.
He notes that prices of hay and alfalfa sold by his company have risen substantially in the past year.
For instance, a large square bale of premium alfalfa sold for $165 to $175 in mid-June. That’s up from $117.50 a year ago.
Yields of first-cutting alfalfa across the region are down because of frost and dry weather, he says.
Yields of grass hay are down 50 to 65 percent across the region, he estimates.