Big square bales of alfalfa with a 155 relative feed value topped out at $152.50 per ton at the hay auction at Dyersville in northeast Iowa on May 16. Round bales topped at $100 per ton. That was the highest price for round bales stored outside this season, according to Dale Leslein, manager of the Dyersville Sales Company, which holds a hay auction every Wednesday. He says prices were steady on the big square bales and about $15 to $20 per ton higher on the round bales, compared to the previous week.
It's dry in northeast Iowa. "The dandelion crop looks really great, except it was supposed to be hay," he says. There's a farmer who has some pasture near Cascade, southwest of Dubuque, where the grass started turning brown on light soil last week. "So there's some concern for drought conditions in the eastern and northeastern parts of Iowa as we head into late May," notes Leslein.
While western Iowa farmers are trying to plant around the mud holes, farmers in eastern Iowa are praying for a rain.
New alfalfa seedings look terrible
There is a lot of concern about the new alfalfa seedings, says Leslein. After a weekend windshield tour, he reports that in southwest Wisconsin and northeast Iowa, 80% of the hay is poor to very poor, 10% fair, 10% good and nothing is in excellent condition. "It's just not a good situation for hay," he says. He thinks hay supplies are going to see a deficit in that area this year, and if a drought comes with it, it's going to be tough for folks who need to buy hay.
There's lots of weeds in the new crop and both new and old crop has poor regrowth, since the hard freeze back in April has really hurt this year's alfalfa. "There will be no glut of hay this year," says Leslein. "We are seeing several buyers loading up on hay, fearing prices will go higher once farmers harvest the new crop alfalfa and realize it's a poor crop. The window may be closing for the buyers of cheap, low-end hay - especially if the weather stays dry. USDA reported earlier this year that hay stocks have hit a 57-year low."
The Fort Atkinson, Iowa, hay auction last week also reported continued strong prices. Everything sold very well, says Bob Humpal, manager of that northeast Iowa market. However, grinding hay prices dropped a little from the previous week at his auction. Prices ranged as high as $175 a ton for third crop big square bales of alfalfa. Round bales were selling $100 to $125 per ton. That was third crop rounds that brought the top price. First crop small square bales brought $115 and second crop around $130 per ton.