Iowa's 2012 hay crop is becoming more valuable—by the day. Northeast Iowa and also in Wisconsin, a hard freeze hit in April after the alfalfa came out of dormancy earlier this year in March. A lot of the older stands were wiped out or lost a lot of plants.
"We're going to have severe shortages of hay in that part of the country due to the reduced 2012 hay crop," says Dale Leslein, manager of the Dyersville Hay Auction in northeast Iowa. "Also, our pastures are pretty much burned up here, already in the last half of June, due to the continuing very dry weather we've had. As a result, hay is going to be in pretty strong demand for the coming year. That's my reading on the situation as it is now shaping up."
Iowa hay producers reluctant to sell until they see how 2012 crop shapes up
Leslein made those observations as he was interviewed while attending the 2012 Farm Progress Hay Expo, which was held at Boone in central Iowa on June 20-21.
Dyersville weekly hay auction is seeing a reduced volume in hay supply it is receiving each week. "The amount of hay being brought in for sale each week is way down," says Leslein. "We are only averaging 250 to 300 tons per week. A lot of the local hay producers in northeast Iowa aren't going to sell hay until they get a little farther along in the season and see if they are going to have any extra to sell. They want to see how big the 2012 hay crop is first before they start selling hay this summer."
With very dry weather this summer, pasture in much of Midwest is already short
Leslein has been traveling in recent weeks through northeast Iowa and Wisconsin and is seeing cows grazing on pasture this summer being fed supplemental hay a lot earlier than usual. "We are seeing supplemental feeding of hay for cows on pasture in June, and that is very unusual in northeast Iowa and Wisconsin," he says. "The pastures are just eaten down to nothing in many cases."
He recommends you pull some samples and have your hay tested to get top value when selling it. The relative feed value is then known when the hay comes to an auction market. "A lot of the price is based on the RFV of the hay and its appearance when hay is sold at an auction. Those are the two biggest things," says Leslein. "The better the color of the hay, the better the smell and the drier the hay and the higher the relative feed value the hay has, then the more it brings in terms of price in the bidding."
The Dyersville market holds a weekly hay auction at 11 a.m. every Wednesday. Generally, most of the hay that's coming into the market at Dyersville currently is from local farmers growing hay in northeast Iowa. "There isn't any hay coming in from the Dakotas right now," he says. "Nebraska is really short on their hay crop. Kansas hay production is down as well. We're thinking we're going to be getting some hay shipped into our Dyersville auction from Canada probably in the next few weeks."
Last summer's drought in Texas resulted in Iowa hay being hauled to Texas
Last year due to the severe drought in Texas and Oklahoma, quite a bit of hay was trucked from Iowa to the southwest U.S. and Texas. The Iowa hay was sold to beef cattle producers there. That was a hot spot for hauling hay from Iowa and the Midwest in 2011. But that southwest market has fallen off for hay this year.
"They don't have the number of cows down there in Texas that they had last summer and the summer before," says Leslein. "A lot of cattle producers in Texas reduced the size of their herds because of the severe drought they experienced the past couple years. They haven't repopulated their beef cow herd as much as we thought they would by now. A lot of their grass hay in Texas is getting baled up this summer and is being shipped eastward to Georgia. The southeast U.S. is the real hotspot for buying hay from other states right now. They are very short on hay in Georgia this summer."
Is there a good demand for grass hay this summer or is it mainly for alfalfa?
There is very good demand for grass hay, says Leslein. "As we go into the summer of 2012 here in late June, you should keep in mind that an ideal time to sell your grass hay is typically before Christmas," says Leslein. "When cattlemen start weaning calves, they may be weaning them earlier than usual this year because of the poor pasture conditions. The grass hay typically brings a very good premium at that time. This year I'm expecting that to occur in the September or October time period, or maybe even as early as the end of July if the weather stays dry and pastures continue to suffer."
To keep tabs on weekly hay prices and other hay market information go to www.dyersvillesales.com.